melanodermic leukodystrophy

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. 

X-linked recessive, carrier mother
X-linked recessive, father affected
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.

Recent reports suggest new treatment modalities may hold promise.  Infusion of autologous CD34+ cells transduced with the Lentin-D lentiviral vector reduced major symptoms in 15 of 17 boys within 29 months after treatment.  Likewise, intrathecal baclofen treatment in two boys with rapidly advancing cerebral manifestations provided symptomatic and palliative improvement.


Article Title: 

Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Gene Therapy for Cerebral Adrenoleukodystrophy

Eichler F, Duncan C, Musolino PL, Orchard PJ, De Oliveira S, Thrasher AJ, Armant M, Dansereau C, Lund TC, Miller WP, Raymond GV, Sankar R, Shah AJ, Sevin C, Gaspar HB, Gissen P, Amartino H, Bratkovic D, Smith NJC, Paker AM, Shamir E, O'Meara T, Davidson D, Aubourg P, Williams DA. Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Gene Therapy for Cerebral Adrenoleukodystrophy. N Engl J Med. 2017 Oct 4. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1700554. [Epub ahead of print].

PubMed ID: 

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: 
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