Adrenoleukodystrophy, X-Linked

Clinical Characteristics
Ocular Features: 

Virtually all patients have visual symptoms.  Loss of acuity, hemianopia, visual agnosia, optic atrophy, and strabismus are the most common features.   Neuropathy may cause a decrease in corneal sensation.  Gaze abnormalities due to ocular apraxia are sometimes seen.  Ocular symptoms often occur after the systemic abnormalities are noted.  However, there is considerable heterogeneity in age of onset and progression of symptoms.

Histopathology of ocular structures reveals characteristic inclusions in retinal neurons, optic nerve macrophages, and the loss of ganglion cells with thinning of the nerve fiber layer of the retina. 

Systemic Features: 

This is a peroxisomal disorder of very-long-chain fatty acid (VLCF) metabolism that leads to progressive neurological and adrenal dysfunction from accumulation of VLCFAs in the nervous system, adrenal glands, and testes.  The age of onset and clinical course are highly variable and there may be several forms.  The childhood form begins between the ages of 4 and 8 years but in other patients with the adult form, symptoms may not appear until the third decade of life.  A viral illness may precipitate the onset.   Symptoms of both central and peripheral neurologic disease are often present with cognitive problems, ataxia, spasticity, aphasia, and loss of fine motor control.  Hearing loss is seen in some patients.  Younger patients tend to have more behavioral problems while older individuals may develop dementia.

Adrenal insufficiency leads to skin hyperpigmentation, weakness, loss of muscle mass and eventually coma.  Impotence in males is common. 


This is an X-linked disorder secondary to mutations in the ABCD1 gene (Xp28).  The result is a deficiency in the cellular transporter known as adrenoleukodystrophy protein that is active in perioxosomes.

Although this X-linked disorder is primarily manifest in males, between 20 and 50% of female carriers have at least some symptoms, usually with a later onset than seen in males.

There are also rare cases with an apparent autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance (NALD) (202370) having an earlier onset and more aggressive course. 

Treatment Options: 

Treatment of adrenal insufficiency is important and can be lifesaving.  Low vision aids, physical therapy and special education may be helpful.  Some young patients with early disease have benefitted from bone marrow transplantation.  "Lorenzo's Oil" (a mixture of oleic acid and erucic acid) has been reported to reduce or delay symptoms in some boys. 

Article Title: 

X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy

Moser HW, Mahmood A, Raymond GV. X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy. Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2007 Mar;3(3):140-51. Review.

PubMed ID: 


Jangouk P, Zackowski KM, Naidu S, Raymond GV. Adrenoleukodystrophy in female heterozygotes: Underrecognized and undertreated. Mol Genet Metab. 2011 Nov 10. [Epub ahead of print]

PubMedID: 33112817

Moser HW, Mahmood A, Raymond GV. X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy. Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2007 Mar;3(3):140-51. Review.

PubMedID: 17342190

Raymond GV, Jones RO, Moser AB. Newborn screening for adrenoleukodystrophy: implications for therapy. Mol Diagn Ther. 2007;11(6):381-4.

PubMedID: 18078355

Cohen SM, Green WR, de la Cruz ZC, Brown FR 3rd, Moser HW, Luckenbach MW, Dove DJ, Maumenee IH. Ocular histopathologic studies of neonatal and childhood adrenoleukodystrophy. Am J Ophthalmol. 1983 Jan;95(1):82-96.

PubMedID: 6295171