Elongation of very long-chain fatty acids is enhanced in X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy

Mol Genet Metab. 2005 Feb;84(2):144-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2004.09.015.


X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the accumulation of saturated and mono-unsaturated very long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA) and reduced peroxisomal VLCFA beta-oxidation activity. In this study, we investigated the role of VLCFA biosynthesis in X-ALD fibroblasts. Our data demonstrate that elongation of both saturated and mono-unsaturated VLCFAs is enhanced in fibroblasts from patients with peroxisomal beta-oxidation defects including X-ALD, and peroxisome biogenesis disorders. These data indicate that enhanced VLCFA elongation is a general phenomenon associated with an impairment in peroxisomal beta-oxidation, and not specific for X-ALD alone. Analysis of plasma samples from patients with X-ALD and different peroxisomal beta-oxidation deficiencies revealed increased concentrations of VLCFAs up to 32 carbons. We infer that enhanced elongation does not result from impaired peroxisomal beta-oxidation alone, but is due to the additional effect of unchecked chain elongation. We demonstrate that elongated VLCFAs are incorporated into complex lipids. The role of chain elongation was also studied retrospectively in samples from patients with X-ALD previously treated with "Lorenzo's oil." We found that the decrease in plasma C26:0 previously found is offset by the increase of mono-unsaturated VLCFAs, not measured previously during the trial. We conclude that evaluation of treatment protocols for disorders of peroxisomal beta-oxidation making use of plasma samples should include the measurement of saturated and unsaturated VLCFAs of chain lengths above 26 carbon atoms. We also conclude that chain elongation offers an interesting target to be studied as a possible mode of treatment for X-ALD and other peroxisomal beta-oxidation disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy / drug therapy
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy / metabolism*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Erucic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Peroxisomes / metabolism
  • Triolein / therapeutic use


  • Drug Combinations
  • Erucic Acids
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lorenzo's oil
  • Triolein

Associated data

  • OMIM/300100