Menkes disease is an X-linked recessive neurodevelopmental disorder resulting from mutation in a copper-transporting ATPase gene. Menkes disease can be detected by relatively high concentrations of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites compared to norepinephrine (NE) and its metabolites, presumably because dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) requires copper as a co-factor. The relative diagnostic efficiencies of levels of catechol analytes, alone or in combination, in neonates at genetic risk of Menkes disease have been unknown.
Plasma from 44 at-risk neonates less than 30 days old were assayed for DA, NE, and other catechols. Of the 44, 19 were diagnosed subsequently with Menkes disease, and 25 were unaffected.
Compared to unaffected at-risk infants, those with Menkes disease had high plasma DA (P < 10−6) and low NE (P < 10−6) levels. Considered alone, neither DA nor NE levels had perfect sensitivity, whereas the ratio of DA:NE was higher in all affected than in all unaffected subjects (P = 2 × 10−8). Analogously, levels of the DA metabolite, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), and the NE metabolite, dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG), were imperfectly sensitive, whereas the DOPAC:DHPG ratio was higher in all affected than in all unaffected subjects (P = 2 × 10−4). Plasma dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and the ratio of epinephrine (EPI):NE levels were higher in affected than in unaffected neonates (P = 0.0015; P = 0.013).
Plasma DA:NE and DOPAC:DHPG ratios are remarkably sensitive and specific for diagnosing Menkes disease in at-risk newborns. Affected newborns also have elevated DOPA and EPI:NE ratios, which decreased DBH activity alone cannot explain.
Menkes; Dopamine; Norepinephrine; Dopamine-β-hydroxylase; DHPG; DOPAC; Diagnosis
Menkes disease is a lethal neurodegenerative disorder of infancy caused by mutations in a copper-transporting ATPase gene, ATP7A. Among its multiple cellular tasks, ATP7A transfers copper to dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) within the lumen of the Golgi network or secretory granules, catalyzing the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine. In a well-established mouse model of Menkes disease, mottled-brindled, we tested whether systemic administration of L-threo-dihydroxyphenylserine (L-DOPS), a drug used successfully to treat autosomal recessive norepinephrine deficiency, would improve brain neurochemical abnormalities and neuropathology.
At 8, 10, and 12 days of age, wild type and mo-br mice received intraperi-toneal injections of 200μg/g body weight of L-DOPS, or mock solution. Five hours after the final injection, the mice were euthanized and brains removed. We measured catecholamine metabolites affected by DBH via high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection, and assessed brain histopathology.
Compared to mock-treated controls, mo-br mice that received intraperitoneal L-DOPS showed significant increases in brain norepinephrine (P<0.001) and its deaminated metabolite, dihydroxyphenylglycol (DHPG, P<0.05). The ratio of a non-beta-hydroxylated metabolite in the catecholamine biosynthetic pathway, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, to the beta-hydroxylated metabolite, dihydroxyphenylglycol, improved equivalently to results obtained previously with brain-directed ATP7A gene therapy (P<0.01). However, L-DOPS treatment did not arrest global brain pathology or improve somatic growth, as gene therapy had.
We conclude that 1) L-DOPS crosses the blood-brain barrier in mo-br mice and corrects brain neurochemical abnormalities, 2) norepinephrine deficiency is not the cause of neurodegeneration in mo-br mice, and 3) L-DOPS treatment may ameliorate noradrenergic hypofunction in Menkes disease.
Pronounced intrafamilial variability is unusual in Menkes disease and its variants. We report two unrelated families featuring affected members with unusually disparate clinical and biochemical phenotypes and explore the underlying molecular mechanisms.
We measured biochemical markers of impaired copper transport in five patients from two unrelated families and used RNase protection, quantitative reverse transcription (RT)‐PCR, Western blot analysis and yeast complementation studies to characterise two ATP7A missense mutations, A1362D and S637L.
In two brothers (family A) with A1362D, RNase protection and Western blot analyses revealed higher amounts of ATP7A transcript and protein in the older, mildly affected patient, who also had a higher plasma copper level and lower cerebrospinal fluid dihydroxyphenylalanine : dihydroxyphenylglycol ratio. These findings indicate greater gastrointestinal absorption of copper and higher activity of dopamine‐β‐hydroxylase, a copper‐dependent enzyme, respectively. In family B, three males with a missense mutation (S637L) in an exon 8 splicing enhancer showed equally reduced amounts of ATP7A transcript and protein by quantitative RT‐PCR and western blot analysis, respectively, despite a more severe phenotype in the youngest. This patient's medical history was notable for cardiac arrest as a neonate, to which we attribute his more severe neurodevelopmental outcome.
These families illustrate that genetic and non‐genetic mechanisms may underlie intrafamilial variability in Menkes disease and its variants.
Menkes disease; intrafamilial variation; gene expression, ATP7A; residual copper transport
Menkes disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder of infancy caused by defects in an X-linked copper transport gene, ATP7A. Evidence from a recent clinical trial indicates that favorable response to early treatment of this disorder with copper injections involves mutations that retain some copper transport capacity. In three unrelated infants, we identified the same mutation, G727R, in the second transmembrane segment of the ATP7A gene product that complemented a S. cerevisiae copper transport mutant, consistent with partial copper transport activity. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction studies showed approximately normal levels of ATP7AG727R transcript in two patients’ fibroblasts compared to wild type controls, but Western blot analyses showed markedly reduced quantities of ATP7A protein, suggesting post-translational degradation. We confirmed the latter by comparing degradation rates of mutant and wild type ATP7A via cyclohexamide treatment of cultured fibroblasts; half-life of the G727R mutant was 2.9 hr and for the wild-type, 11.4 hr. We also documented a X-box binding protein 1 splice variant in G727R cells - known to be associated with the cellular misfolded protein response. Patient A, diagnosed 6 months of age, began treatment at 228 days (7.6 mos) of age. At his current age (2 years), his overall neurodevelopment remains at a 2 to 4 month level. In contrast, patients B and C were diagnosed in the neonatal period, began treatment within 25 days of age, and show near normal neurodevelopment at their current ages, 3 years (B), and 7 months (C). The poor clinical outcome in patient A with the same missense mutation as patients A and B with near normal oucomes, confirms the importance of early medical intervention in Menkes disease and highlights the critical potential benefit of newborn screening for this disorder.
The ATP7A gene encodes the ATP7A protein, which is a trans-Golgi network copper transporter expressed in the brain and other organs. Mutations in this gene cause disorders of copper metabolism, such as Menkes disease. Here we describe the novel and unusual mutation (p.T1048I) in the ATP7A gene of a child with Menkes disease. The mutation affects a conserved DKTGT1048 phosphorylation motif that is involved in the catalytic activity of ATP7A. We also describe the clinical course and the response to copper treatment in this patient.
An 11-month-old male Caucasian infant was studied because of hypotonia, ataxia and global developmental delay. The patient presented low levels of serum copper and ceruloplasmin, and was shown to be hemizygous for the p.T1048I mutation in ATP7A. The diagnosis was confirmed when the patient was 18 months old, and treatment with copper-histidinate (Cu-His) was started immediately. The patient showed some neurological improvement and he is currently 8 years old. Because the p.T1048I mutation affects its catalytic site, we expected a complete loss of functional ATP7A and a classical Menkes disease presentation. However, the clinical course of the patient was mild, and he responded to Cu-His treatment, which suggests that this mutation leads to partial conservation of the activity of ATP7A.
This case emphasizes the important correlation between genotype and phenotype in patients with Menkes disease. The prognosis in Menkes disease is associated with early detection, early initiation of treatment and with the preservation of some ATP7A activity, which is necessary for Cu-His treatment response. The description of this new mutation and the response of the patient to Cu-His treatment will contribute to the growing body of knowledge about treatment response in Menkes disease.
ATP7A; Menkes disease; Copper transporter; Cu-His treatment
Menkes disease is a lethal X-linked recessive neurodegenerative disorder of copper transport caused by mutations in ATP7A, which encodes a copper-transporting ATPase. Early postnatal treatment with copper injections often improves clinical outcomes in affected infants. While Menkes disease newborns appear normal neurologically, analyses of fetal tissues including placenta indicate abnormal copper distribution and suggest a prenatal onset of the metal transport defect. In an affected fetus whose parents found termination unacceptable and who understood the associated risks, we began in utero copper histidine treatment at 31.5 weeks gestational age. Copper histidine (900 μg per dose) was administered directly to the fetus by intramuscular injection (fetal quadriceps or gluteus) under ultrasound guidance. Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling enabled serial measurement of fetal copper and ceruloplasmin levels that were used to guide therapy over a four-week period. Fetal copper levels rose from 17 μg/dL prior to treatment to 45 μg/dL, and ceruloplasmin levels from 39 mg/L to 122 mg/L. After pulmonary maturity was confirmed biochemically, the baby was delivered at 35.5 weeks and daily copper histidine therapy (250 μg sc b.i.d.) was begun. Despite this very early intervention with copper, the infant showed hypotonia, developmental delay, and electroencephalographic abnormalities and died of respiratory failure at 5.5 months of age. The patient’s ATP7A mutation, which severely disrupted mRNA splicing, resulted in complete absence of ATP7A protein on Western blots. These investigations suggest that prenatally initiated copper replacement is inadequate to correct Menkes disease caused by severe loss-of-function mutations, and that postnatal ATP7A gene addition represents a rational approach in such circumstances.
Copper is an essential trace element that plays a critical role in the survival of all living organisms. Menkes disease and occipital horn syndrome (OHS) are allelic disorders of copper transport caused by defects in a X-linked gene (ATP7A) that encodes a P-type ATPase that transports copper across cellular membranes, including the trans-Golgi network. Genetic studies in yeast recently revealed a new family of cytoplasmic proteins called copper chaperones which bind copper ions and deliver them to specific cellular pathways. Biochemical studies of the human homolog of one copper chaperone, ATOX1, indicate direct interaction with the Menkes/OHS protein. Although no disease-associated mutations have been reported in ATOX1, mice with disruption of the ATOX1 locus demonstrate perinatal mortality similar to that observed in the brindled mice (Mobr), a mouse model of Menkes disease. The cDNA sequence for ATOX1 is known, and the genomic organization has not been reported.
We determined the genomic structure of ATOX1. The gene contains 4 exons spanning a genomic distance of approximately 16 kb. The translation start codon is located in the 3' end of exon 1 and the termination codon in exon 3. We developed a PCR-based assay to amplify the coding regions and splice junctions from genomic DNA. We screened for ATOX1 mutations in two patients with classical Menkes disease phenotypes and one individual with occipital horn syndrome who had no alterations detected in ATP7A, as well as an adult female with chronic anemia, low serum copper and evidence of mild dopamine-beta-hydroxylase deficiency and no alterations in the ATOX1 coding or splice junction sequences were found.
In this study, we characterized the genomic structure of the human copper chaperone ATOX1 to facilitate screening of this gene from genomic DNA in patients whose clinical or biochemical phenotypes suggest impaired copper transport.
Epilepsy is a major feature of Menkes disease, an X-linked recessive infantile neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in ATP7A, which produces a copper-transporting ATPase. Three prior surveys indicated clinical seizures and electroencephalographic (EEG) abnormalities in a combined 27 of 29 (93%) symptomatic Menkes disease patients diagnosed at 2 months of age or older. To assess the influence of earlier, presymptomatic diagnosis and treatment on seizure semiology and brain electrical activity, we evaluated 71 EEGs in 24 Menkes disease patients who were diagnosed and treated with copper injections in early infancy (≤6 weeks of age), and whose ATP7A mutations we determined. Clinical seizures were observed in only 12.5% (3/24) of these patients, although 46% (11/24) had at least one abnormal EEG tracing, including 50% of patients with large deletions in ATP7A, 50% of those with small deletions, 60% of those with nonsense mutations, and 57% of those with canonical splice junction mutations. In contrast, five patients with mutations shown to retain partial function, either via some correct RNA splicing or residual copper transport capacity, had neither clinical seizures nor EEG abnormalities. Our findings suggest that early diagnosis and treatment improve brain electrical activity and decrease seizure occurrence in classical Menkes disease irrespective of the precise molecular defect. Subjects with ATP7A mutations that retain some function seem particularly well protected by early intervention against the possibility of epilepsy.
Mottled-dappled (Mo-dp) is a mouse model of Menkes disease caused by a large, previously uncharacterized deletion in the 5' region of Atp7a, the mouse ortholog of ATP7A. Affected mutants die in utero at embryonic day 17, and show bending and thickening of the ribs and distortion of the pectoral and pelvic girdles and limbs. To characterize this allele, we designed a custom 4×180K microarray on the mouse X chromosome and performed comparative genomic hybridization using extracted DNA from normal and carrier Mo-dp females, and identified an approximately 9 kb deletion. We used PCR to fine-map the breakpoints and amplify a junction fragment of 630 bp. Sequencing of the junction fragment disclosed the exact breakpoint locations and that the Mo-dp deletion is precisely 8,990 bp, including approximately 2 kb in the promoter region of Atp7a. Western blot analysis of Mo-dp heterozygotes brains showed diminished amounts of Atp7a protein, consistent with reduced expression due to the promoter region deletion on one allele. In heterozygous females, brain copper levels tended to be lower compared to wild type whereas neurochemical analyses revealed higher dihydroxyphenylacetic acid: dihydroxyphenylglycol (DOPAC: DHPG) and dopamine: norepinephrine (DA:NE) ratios compared to normal (p=0.002 and 0.029, respectively), consistent with partial deficiency of dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, a copper-dependent enzyme. Heterozygous females showed no significant differences in body weight compared to wild type females. Our results delineate the molecular details of the Mo-dp mutation for the first time and define novel biochemical findings in heterozygous female carriers of this allele.
Copper; Mottled-dappled; Menkes disease; Atp7a
Menkes disease is an X-linked recessive disorder of brain copper metabolism caused by mutations in an essential mammalian copper transport gene, ATP7A. Untreated affected individuals suffer failure to thrive and neurodevelopmental delays that usually commence at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Death by age three years is typical. While provision of working copies of ATP7A to the brain by viral vectors is a promising strategy under development, the only treatment currently available is subcutaneous copper injections. These can normalize circulating blood levels and may replete brain copper depending on the molecular context, e.g., the severity of ATP7A mutation, and presence of mosaicism. In this paper, we summarize somatic growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes for 60 subjects enrolled in a recently concluded phase I/II clinical trial of copper histidine for Menkes disease (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00001262). Primary outcomes indicate highly statistically significant improvements in gross motor, fine motor/adaptive, personal-social, and language neurodevelopment in the cohort of subjects who received early treatment prior to onset of symptoms (n=35). Correlating with these findings, quantitative parameters of somatic growth indicated statistically significant greater growth in head circumference for the initially asymptomatic group, whereas weight and height/length at age three years (or at time of death) did not differ significantly. Mortality at age 3 was higher (50%) in subjects older and symptomatic when treatment commenced compared to the asymptomatic group (28.6%). We conclude that early copper histidine for Menkes disease is safe and efficacious, with treatment outcomes influenced by the timing of intervention, and ATP7A mutation.
Menkes disease; ATP7A; copper; neurodevelopment; brain growth
This Review summarizes recent advances in understanding copper-transporting ATPase 1 (ATP7A), and examines the neurological phenotypes associated with dysfunction of this protein. Involvement of ATP7A in axonal outgrowth, synapse integrity and neuronal activation underscores the fundamental importance of copper metabolism to neurological function. Defects in ATP7A cause Menkes disease, an infantile-onset, lethal condition. Neonatal diagnosis and early treatment with copper injections enhance survival in patients with this disease, and can normalize clinical outcomes if mutant ATP7A molecules retain small amounts of residual activity. Gene replacement rescues a mouse model of Menkes disease, suggesting a potential therapeutic approach for patients with complete loss-of-function ATP7A mutations. Remarkably, a newly discovered ATP7A disorder—isolated distal motor neuropathy—has none of the characteristic clinical or biochemical abnormalities of Menkes disease or its milder allelic variant occipital horn syndrome (OHS), instead resembling Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 2. These findings indicate that ATP7A has a crucial but previously unappreciated role in motor neuron maintenance, and that the mechanism underlying ATP7A-related distal motor neuropathy is distinct from Menkes disease and OHS pathophysiology. Collectively, these insights refine our knowledge of the neurology of ATP7A-related copper transport diseases and pave the way for further progress in understanding ATP7A function.
Classical Menkes disease is an X-linked recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in a P-type ATPase (ATP7A) that normally delivers copper to the developing central nervous system. Infants with large deletions, or other mutations in ATP7A that incapacitate copper transport to the brain, show poor clinical outcomes and subnormal brain copper despite early subcutaneous copper histidine (CuHis) injections. These findings suggest a need for direct central nervous system approaches in such patients. To begin to evaluate an aggressive but potentially useful new strategy for metabolic improvement of this disorder, we studied the acute and chronic effects of CuHis administered by intracerebroventricular (ICV) injection in healthy adult rats. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after ICV CuHis showed diffuse T1-signal enhancement, indicating wide brain distribution of copper after ICV administration, and implying the utility of this paramagnetic metal as a MRI contrast agent. The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of CuHis, defined as the highest dose that did not induce overt toxicity, growth retardation, or reduce lifespan, was 0.5 mcg. Animals receiving multiple infusions of this MTD showed increased brain copper concentrations, but no significant differences in activity, behavior, and somatic growth, or brain histology compared to saline-injected controls. Based on estimates of the brain copper deficit in Menkes disease patients, CuHis doses 10-fold lower than the MTD found in this study may restore proper brain copper concentration. Our results suggest that ICV CuHis administration have potential as a novel treatment approach in Menkes disease infants with severe mutations. Future trials of direct CNS copper administration in mouse models of Menkes disease will be informative.
Copper histidine; Intracerebral administration; Maximum tolerated dose; Menkes disease; Copper transport
Copper is an essential trace element required by all living organisms. Excess amounts of copper, however, results in cellular damage. Disruptions to normal copper homeostasis are hallmarks of three genetic disorders: Menkes disease, occipital horn syndrome, and Wilson’s disease.
Menkes disease and occipital horn syndrome are characterized by copper deficiency. Typical features of Menkes disease result from low copper-dependent enzyme activity. Standard treatment involves parenteral administration of copper-histidine. If treatment is initiated before 2 months of age, neurodegeneration can be prevented, while delayed treatment is utterly ineffective. Thus, neonatal mass screening should be implemented. Meanwhile, connective tissue disorders cannot be improved by copper-histidine treatment. Combination therapy with copper-histidine injections and oral administration of disulfiram is being investigated. Occipital horn syndrome characterized by connective tissue abnormalities is the mildest form of Menkes disease. Treatment has not been conducted for this syndrome.
Wilson’s disease is characterized by copper toxicity that typically affects the hepatic and nervous systems severely. Various other symptoms are observed as well, yet its early diagnosis is sometimes difficult. Chelating agents and zinc are effective treatments, but are inefficient in most patients with fulminant hepatic failure. In addition, some patients with neurological Wilson’s disease worsen or show poor response to chelating agents. Since early treatment is critical, a screening system for Wilson’s disease should be implemented in infants. Patients with Wilson’s disease may be at risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Understanding the link between Wilson’s disease and hepatocellular carcinoma will be beneficial for disease treatment and prevention.
Menkes disease; Wilson’s disease; occipital horn syndrome; ATP7A; ATP7B; disulfiram; zinc; trientine.
ATP7A is a copper-transporting ATPase critical for central and peripheral nervous system function. Mutations in ATP7A cause Menkes disease and occipital horn syndrome (OHS), allelic X-linked recessive conditions that feature vascular abnormalities ascribed to low activity of lysyl oxidase, a copper-dependent enzyme. From a recently created Menkes disease/OHS patient registry, we identified 4 of 95 subjects with major congenital heart defects (4.2%), a proportion exceeding the general population prevalence (≈1%). In conjunction with mouse models of Menkes disease, OHS, and lysyl oxidase deficiency, which feature aortic aneurysms, irregular attachment between vascular endothelium and mesoderm and other defects of embryological development, our observation suggests an important role of copper metabolism in cardiac development. Congenital heart disease may be an under-appreciated abnormality in Menkes disease, and should be considered in a broad differential diagnosis of cardiac defects found prenatally in male fetuses. Conversely, newborn infants with suspected or confirmed Menkes disease should be evaluated for heart disease by careful clinical examination and echocardiography, if indicated.
ATP7A; congenital heart disease; lysyl oxidase; Menkes disease; occipital horn syndrome
Menkes disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder in infants caused by mutations in the gene ATP7A which encodes a copper (Cu) transporter. Defects in ATP7A lead to accumulated copper in the small intestine and kidneys and to copper deficiencies in the brain and the liver. The copper level in the kidney in postnatal copper-treated Menkes patients may reach toxic levels. The mouse model, mosaic Atp7a mo-ms recapitulates the Menkes phenotype and die about 15.75±1.5 days of age. In the present study we found that prenatal treatment of mosaic murine fetuses throughout gestation days 7, 11, 15 and 18 with a combination of CuCl2 (50 mg/kg) and dimethyldithiocarbamate (DMDTC) (280 mg/kg) leads to an increase in survival to about 76±25.3 days, whereas treatment with CuCl2 alone (50 mg/kg) only leads to survival for about 21 days ±5 days. These copper-DMDTC treated mutants showed an improved locomotor activity performance and a gain in body mass. In contrast to treatment with CuCl2 alone, a significant increase in the amount of copper was observed in the brain after prenatal copper-DMDTC treatment as well as a decrease in the amount of accumulated copper in the kidney, both leading towards a normalization of the copper level. Although copper-DMDTC prenatal treatment only leads to a small increase in the sub-normal copper concentration in the liver and to an increase of copper in the already overloaded small intestine, the combined results suggest that prenatal copper-DMDTC treatment also should be considered for humans.
Menkes disease is an X linked recessive disorder of copper metabolism characterised by neurological symptoms and connective tissue manifestations. The defective gene in Menkes disease has recently been isolated and the gene product is predicted to be a copper transporting ATPase. The diagnosis of Menkes disease has hitherto been performed by biochemical analysis, based on intracellular accumulation of copper. Cloning the gene opened up the possibility of establishing precise and reliable carrier and prenatal diagnosis by defining the molecular defect. In this report we describe the partial deletion of the Menkes gene in a patient who had inherited the mutation from his phenotypically normal mother. This information enabled us to perform prenatal diagnosis by direct mutation analysis of the mother's sixth pregnancy and we detected the same deletion, indicating that the male fetus was affected. This first prenatal diagnosis of Menkes disease by direct mutation analysis shows some advantages of DNA analysis compared to biochemical diagnosis.
Menkes disease is an infantile-onset X-linked recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused by diverse mutations in a copper-transport gene, ATP7A. Affected patients are characterized by progressive hypotonia, seizures, failure to thrive and death in early childhood. Here, we report a case of Menkes disease presented by intractable seizures and infantile spasms. A 3-month-old male infant had visited our pediatric clinic for lethargy, floppy muscle tone, poor oral intake and partial seizures. His hair was kinky, brown colored and fragile. Partial seizures became more frequent, generalized and intractable to antiseizure medications. An EEG showed frequent posteriorly dominant generalized spikes that were consistent with a generalized seizure. From a genetic analysis, a c.2743C>T (p.Gln915X) mutation was detected and diagnosed as Menkes disease. The mutation is a novel one that has not been previously reported as a cause of Menkes disease.
Menkes Disease; MNK Gene; ATP7A Mutation
Menkes disease (MIM 309400) is an X-linked, neurodegenerative disorder resulting from deficient activity of copper-dependent enzymes and caused by alterations in the APT7A gene. In its classic form, it manifests in boys with hypotonia, seizures, skin and joint laxity, hair twisting (pili torti), cerebrovascular tortuosity, and bladder diverticulae. Menkes disease phenotypes have been reported in females with X; autosome translocations- disrupting ATP7A gene function- or ATP7A gene alterations. Those females manifest variable clinical findings, some of which, such as pili torti, seizure presence and/or age of onset, cerebrovascular tortuosity, degree of intellectual disability, bladder divericulae are largely under-reported and under-studied. Here, we report three females with Menkes disease and variant phenotypes, sharing characteristic features; one with classic Menkes disease and two with Menkes disease variants. We conclude that Menkes disease in females manifests with a variable spectrum of clinical findings but a few are uniformly present such as neurodevelopmental disability, hypotonia, and connective tissue findings. Others, such as seizures, cerebral atrophy, and cerebrovascular tortuosity may be present but are under-reported and under-studied. We propose that the diagnosis of Menkes disease or variants in females with suspicious clinical findings is an important one to consider as early treatment with parenteral copper may be considered. The effect of this treatment on the disease course in females with MD is unknown and remains to be seen.
Menkes disease; Menkes syndrome; ATP7A; kinky hair syndrome; pili torti; copper deficiency
Menkes disease is an X-linked recessive disorder of copper transport caused by mutations in ATP7A, a copper-transporting ATPase. Certain radiologic findings reported in this condition overlap with those caused by child abuse. However, cervical spine defects simulating cervical spine fracture, a known result of nonaccidental pediatric trauma, have not been reported previously in this illness.
To assess the frequency of cervical spine anomalies in Menkes disease after discovery of an apparent C2 posterior arch defect in a child participating in a clinical trial.
Materials and methods
We examined cervical spine radiographs obtained in 35 children with Menkes disease enrolled in a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.
Four of the 35 children with Menkes disease had apparent C2 posterior arch defects consistent with spondylolysis or incomplete/delayed ossification.
Defects in C2 were found in 11% of infants and young children with Menkes disease. Discovery of cervical spine defects expands the spectrum of radiologic findings associated with this condition. As with other skeletal abnormalities, this feature simulates nonaccidental trauma. In the context of Menkes disease, suspicions of child abuse should be considered cautiously and tempered by these findings to avoid unwarranted accusations.
Menkes disease; Cervical spine; Bone abnormalities; Copper metabolism
Deficiency of one of the copper transporters ATP7A and ATP7B leads to the rare X-linked disorder Menkes Disease (MD) or the rare autosomal disorder Wilson disease (WD), respectively. In order to investigate whether the ATP7A and the ATP7B genes may be transcriptionally regulated, we measured the expression level of the two genes at various concentrations of iron, copper, and insulin. Treating fibroblasts from controls or from individuals with MD or WD for 3 and 10 days with iron chelators revealed that iron deficiency led to increased transcript levels of both ATP7A and ATP7B. Copper deficiency obtained by treatment with the copper chelator led to a downregulation of ATP7A in the control fibroblasts, but surprisingly not in the WD fibroblasts. In contrast, the addition of copper led to an increased expression of ATP7A, but a decreased expression of ATP7B. Thus, whereas similar regulation patterns for the two genes were observed in response to iron deficiency, different responses were observed after changes in the access to copper. Mosaic fibroblast cultures from female carriers of MD treated with copper or copper chelator for 6–8 weeks led to clonal selection. Cells that express the normal ATP7A allele had a selective growth advantage at high copper concentrations, whereas more surprisingly, cells that express the mutant ATP7A allele had a selective growth advantage at low copper concentrations. Thus, although the transcription of ATP7A is regulated by copper, clonal growth selection in mosaic cell cultures is affected by the level of copper. Female carriers of MD are rarely affected probably due to a skewed inactivation of the X-chromosome bearing the ATP7A mutation.
copper; menkes disease; wilson disease; regulation; iron–copper interaction
Defects in the mammalian Menkes and Wilson copper transporting P-type ATPases cause severe copper homeostasis disease phenotypes in humans. Here, we find that DmATP7, the sole Drosophila orthologue of the Menkes and Wilson genes, is vital for uptake of copper in vivo. Analysis of a DmATP7 loss-of-function allele shows that DmATP7 is essential in embryogenesis, early larval development, and adult pigmentation and is probably required for copper uptake from the diet. These phenotypes are analogous to those caused by mutation in the mouse and human Menkes genes, suggesting that like Menkes, DmATP7 plays at least two roles at the cellular level: delivering copper to cuproenzymes required for pigmentation and neuronal function and removing excess cellular copper via facilitated efflux. DmATP7 displays a dynamic and unexpected expression pattern in the developing embryo, implying novel functions for this copper pump and the lethality observed in DmATP7 mutant flies is the earliest seen for any copper homeostasis gene.
The primary mechanism of copper transport to the brain is unknown, although this process is drastically impaired in Menkes disease, an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in an evolutionarily conserved copper transporter, ATP7A. Potential central nervous system entry routes for copper include brain capillary endothelial cells that originate from mesodermal angioblasts and form the blood-brain barrier, and the choroid plexuses, which derive from embryonic ectoderm, and form the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. We exploited a rare (and first reported) example of somatic mosaicism for an ATP7A mutation to shed light on questions about copper transport into the developing brain. In a 20-month-old Menkes disease patient evaluated before copper treatment, blood copper and catecholamine concentrations were normal, whereas levels in cerebrospinal fluid were abnormal and consistent with his neurologically severe phenotype. We documented disparate levels of mosaicism for an ATP7A missense mutation, P1001L, in tissues derived from different embryonic origins; allele quantitation showed P1001L in approximately 27% and 88% of DNA samples from blood cells (mesoderm-derived) and cultured fibroblasts (ectoderm-derived), respectively. These findings imply that the P1001L mutation in the patient preceded formation of the three primary embryonic lineages at gastrulation, with the ectoderm layer ultimately harboring a higher percentage of mutation-bearing cells than mesoderm or endoderm. Since choroid plexus epithelia are derived from neuroectoderm, and brain capillary endothelial cells from mesodermal angioblasts, the clinical and biochemical findings in this infant support a critical role for the blood-CSF barrier (choroid plexus epithelia) in copper entry to the developing brain.
Somatic mosaicism; Menkes disease; ATP7A; copper metabolism; choroid plexus
Hypomyelination in developing brain is often accompanied by congenital metabolic disorders. Menkes kinky hair disease is an X-linked neurodegenerative disease of impaired copper transport, resulting from a mutation of the Menkes disease gene, a transmembrane copper-transporting p-type ATPase gene (ATP7A). In a macular mutant mouse model, the murine ortholog of Menkes gene (mottled gene) is mutated, and widespread neurodegeneration and subsequent death are observed. Although some biochemical analysis of myelin protein in macular mouse has been reported, detailed histological study of myelination in this mouse model is currently lacking. Since myelin abnormality is one of the neuropathologic findings of human Menkes disease, in this study early myelination in macular mouse brain was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Two-week-old macular mice and normal littermates were perfused with 4% paraformaldehyde. Immunohistochemical staining of paraffin embedded and vibratome sections was performed using antibodies against either CNPase, cleaved caspase-3 or O4 (marker of immature oligodendrocytes). This staining showed that cerebral myelination in macular mouse was generally hypoplastic and that hypomyelination was remarkable in internal capsule, corpus callosum, and cingulate cortex. In addition, an increased number of cleaved caspase-3 positive cells were observed in corpus callosum and internal capsule. Copper deficiency induced by low copper diet has been reported to induce oligodendrocyte dysfunction and leads to hypomyelination in this mouse model. Taken together, hypomyelination observed in this study in a mouse model of Menkes disease is assumed to be induced by increased apoptosis of immature oligodendrocytes in developing cerebrum, through deficient intracellular copper metabolism.
Pediatric neck masses should trigger a high index of suspicion for certain genetic disorders of connective tissue. To highlight this, we report on three infants with Menkes disease, an inherited disorder of copper transport, who developed large, unilateral neck masses at between 7 and 17 months of age. All were identified in imaging studies as internal jugular phlebectasia. The masses, which enlarged on crying or exertion, have remained clinically benign in these patients for 20, 17 and 2 months, respectively. While arterial tortuosity and aneurysms have been reported often in Menkes disease, venous phlebectasia has rarely been described. We speculate that low activity of the copper-dependent enzyme, lysyl oxidase, leading to reduced tensile strength in the deep cervical fascia comprising the carotid sheath may predispose to internal jugular phlebectasia in these individuals. Improved survival and neurological outcomes in infants with Menkes disease due to advances in early diagnosis and treatment may be associated with recognition of novel clinical stigmata of this condition such as internal jugular phlebectasia.
internal jugular phlebectasia; venous aneurysm; neck mass; Menkes disease
Owing to mutations in the copper‐transporting P‐type ATPase, ATP7A (or MNK), patients with Menkes disease (MD) have an inadequate supply of copper to various copper‐dependent enzymes. The ATP7A protein is located in the trans‐Golgi network, where it transports copper via secretory compartments to copper‐dependent enzymes. Raised copper concentrations result in the trafficking of ATP7A to the plasma membrane, where it functions in copper export. An important model of MD is the Mottled mouse, which possesses mutations in Atp7A. The Mottled mouse displays three distinct phenotypic severities: embryonic lethal, perinatal lethal and a longer‐lived viable phenotype. However, the effects of mutations from these phenotypic classes on the ATP7A protein are unknown. In this study, we found that these classes of mutation differentially affect the copper transport and trafficking functions of the ATP7A protein. The embryonic lethal mutation, Atp7amo11H (11H), caused mislocalisation of the protein to the endoplasmic reticulum, impaired glycosylation, and abolished copper delivery to the secretory pathway. In contrast, the perinatal lethal and viable mutations, Atp7amoMac (Macular) and Atp7amoVbr (Viable brindle) both resulted in a reduction in copper delivery to the secretory pathway and constitutive trafficking of the ATP7A protein to the plasma membrane in the absence of additional copper. In the case of Viable brindle, this hypertrafficking response was dependent on the catalytic phosphorylation site of ATP7A, whereas no such requirement was found for the Macular mutation. These findings provide evidence that the degree of MD severity in mice is associated with both copper transport and trafficking defects in the ATP7A protein.
Menkes disease; mottled mice; copper; ATP7A; protein trafficking