Infusion of recombinant human acid sphingomyelinase into niemann-pick disease mice leads to visceral, but not neurological, correction of the pathophysiology

FASEB J. 2000 Oct;14(13):1988-95. doi: 10.1096/fj.00-0014com.


An inherited deficiency of acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) activity results in the Type A and B forms of Niemann-Pick disease (NPD). Using the ASM-deficient mouse model (ASMKO) of NPD, we evaluated the efficacy of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) for the treatment of this disorder. Recombinant human ASM (rhASM) was purified from the media of overexpressing Chinese Hamster ovary cells and i.v. injected into 16 five-month-old ASMKO mice at doses of 0.3, 1, 3, or 10 mg/kg every other day for 14 days (7 injections). On day 16, the animals were killed and the tissues were analyzed for their sphingomyelin (SPM) content. Notably, the SPM levels were markedly reduced in the hearts, livers, and spleens of these animals, and to a lesser degree in the lungs. Little or no substrate depletion was found in the kidneys or brains. Based on these results, three additional 5-month-old ASMKO animals were injected every other day with 5 mg/kg for 8 days (4 injections) and killed on day 10 for histological analysis. Consistent with the biochemical results, marked histological improvements were observed in the livers, spleens, and lungs, indicating a reversal of the disease pathology. A group of 10 ASMKO mice were then i.v. injected once a week with 1 mg/kg rhASM for 15 wk, starting at 3 wk of age. Although anti-rhASM antibodies were produced in these mice, the antibodies were not neutralizing and no adverse effects were observed from this treatment. Weight gain and rota-rod performance were slightly improved in the treated animals as compared with ASMKO control animals, but significant neurological deficits were still observed and their life span was not extended by ERT. In contrast with these CNS results, striking histological and biochemical improvements were found in the reticuloendothelial system organs (livers, spleens, and lungs). These studies indicate that ERT should be an effective therapeutic approach for Type B NPD, but is unlikely to prevent the severe neurodegeneration associated with Type A NPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Niemann-Pick Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / adverse effects
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / immunology
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / therapeutic use*
  • Sphingomyelins / analysis
  • Viscera / chemistry
  • Viscera / drug effects


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Sphingomyelins
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase