Refsum disease is caused by a deficiency of phytanoyl-CoA hydroxylase (PHYH), the first enzyme of the peroxisomal alpha-oxidation system, resulting in the accumulation of the branched-chain fatty acid phytanic acid. The main clinical symptoms are polyneuropathy, cerebellar ataxia, and retinitis pigmentosa. To study the pathogenesis of Refsum disease, we generated and characterized a Phyh knockout mouse. We studied the pathological effects of phytanic acid accumulation in Phyh(-/-) mice fed a diet supplemented with phytol, the precursor of phytanic acid. Phytanic acid accumulation caused a reduction in body weight, hepatic steatosis, and testicular atrophy with loss of spermatogonia. Phenotype assessment using the SHIRPA protocol and subsequent automated gait analysis using the CatWalk system revealed unsteady gait with strongly reduced paw print area for both fore- and hindpaws and reduced base of support for the hindpaws. Histochemical analyses in the CNS showed astrocytosis and up-regulation of calcium-binding proteins. In addition, a loss of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum was observed. No demyelination was present in the CNS. Motor nerve conduction velocity measurements revealed a peripheral neuropathy. Our results show that, in the mouse, high phytanic acid levels cause a peripheral neuropathy and ataxia with loss of Purkinje cells. These findings provide important insights in the pathophysiology of Refsum disease.
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 2008|