Genetic deficiency of short-chain acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) dehydrogenase activity was demonstrated in cultured fibroblasts from a 2-yr-old female whose early postnatal life was complicated by poor feeding, emesis, and failure to thrive. She demonstrated progressive skeletal muscle weakness and developmental delay. Her plasma total carnitine level (35 nmol/ml) was low-normal, but was esterified to an abnormal degree (55% vs. controls of < 10%). Her skeletal muscle total carnitine level was low (7.6 nmol/mg protein vs. controls of 14 ± 2 nmol/mg protein) and was 75% esterified. Mild lipid deposition was noted in type I muscle fibers. Fibroblasts from this patient had 50% of control levels of acyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity towards butyryl-CoA as substrate at a concentration of 50 μM in a fluorometric assay based on the reduction of electron transfer flavoprotein. All of this residual activity was inhibited by an antibody against medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. These data demonstrated that medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase accounted for 50% of the activity towards the short-chain substrate, butyryl-CoA, under these conditions, but that antibody against that enzyme could be used to unmask the specific and virtually complete deficiency of short-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase in this patient. Fibroblasts from her parents had intermediate levels of activity towards butyryl-CoA, consistent with the autosomal recessive inheritance of this metabolic defect.
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