Objective: To seek regional metabolite abnormalities in patients with Kennedy disease (KD) using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Design: Nine patients with KD showing the typical phenotype without clinical signs of upper motor neuron involvement were compared with 17 male, age-matched, healthy control subjects. Relative metabolite concentrations for N-acetyl (NA) groups, choline-containing groups (Cho), phosphocreatine (Cr), and lactate (Lac) were determined in the brainstem and the motor region.
Results: Pathologic Lac signals suggesting impaired energy metabolism were absent in patients and controls. In the brainstem area, patients with KD showed a significant reduction in the NA/Cho metabolite ratio (P = .01). In the motor region, NA/Cho (P = .04) and NA/Cr (P = .03) ratios were significantly reduced. The reduction of the NA/Cho ratio in the motor region mainly resulted from decreased metabolite ratios in 3 patients. Changes in metabolite ratios did not correlate with the number of trinucleotide cytosine-adenine-guanine repeats from leukocytes. Because of the relatively small sample size due to the rarity of KD, these results should be considered preliminary.
Conclusions: Spectroscopic data fail to provide further evidence for altered energy metabolism in KD. Metabolite changes in the brainstem indicate a reduction of the neuronal marker NA or elevated Cho. These findings may reflect neuronal loss or gliosis consistent with the known pathologic features. In a subset of patients, altered metabolite ratios best explained by neuronal loss suggest subclinical involvement of the motor region. The extent of metabolite changes does not correlate with the trinucleotide repeat length.