On the Biomarkers and Mechanisms of Konzo, a Distinct Upper Motor Neuron Disease Associated With Food (Cassava) Cyanogenic Exposure

Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Mar;49(3):571-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.05.080. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


Konzo is a self-limiting central motor-system disease associated with food dependency on cassava and low dietary intake of sulfur amino acids (SAA). Under conditions of SAA-deficiency, ingested cassava cyanogens yield metabolites that include thiocyanate and cyanate, a protein-carbamoylating agent. We studied the physical and biochemical modifications of rat serum and spinal cord proteins arising from intoxication of young adult rats with 50-200mg/kg linamarin, or 200mg/kg sodium cyanate (NaOCN), or vehicle (saline) and fed either a normal amino acid- or SAA-deficient diet for up to 2 weeks. Animals under SAA-deficient diet and treatment with linamarin or NaOCN developed hind limb tremors or motor weakness, respectively. LC/MS-MS analysis revealed differential albumin carbamoylation in animals treated with NaOCN, vs. linamarin/SAA-deficient diet, or vehicle. 2D-DIGE and MALDI-TOF/MS-MS analysis of the spinal cord proteome showed differential expression of proteins involved in oxidative mechanisms (e.g. peroxiredoxin 6), endocytic vesicular trafficking (e.g. dynamin 1), protein folding (e.g. protein disulfide isomerase), and maintenance of the cytoskeleton integrity (e.g. α-spectrin). Studies are needed to elucidate the role of the aformentioned modifications in the pathogenesis of cassava-associated motor-system disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acids, Sulfur / deficiency
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cyanates / analysis
  • Diet
  • Male
  • Manihot / chemistry*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / chemically induced*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / metabolism*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / physiopathology
  • Nitriles / toxicity*
  • Proteome / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Nude
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Thiocyanates / analysis
  • Two-Dimensional Difference Gel Electrophoresis


  • Amino Acids, Sulfur
  • Biomarkers
  • Cyanates
  • Nitriles
  • Proteome
  • Thiocyanates
  • cyanogen
  • sodium cyanate
  • linamarin
  • thiocyanate