Giant axonal neuropathy: a childhood disorder of microfilaments

Ann Neurol. 1977 May;1(5):438-51. doi: 10.1002/ana.410010507.


A sural nerve biopsy was performed on an 8-year-old boy with a chronic, slowly progressive polyneuropathy. Light and electron microscopy as well as teased nerve-fiber preparations demonstrated numerous giant axons filled with closely packed neurofilaments. Both myelinated and unmyelinated fibers were involved. Segmental demyelination, remyelination, and onion-bulb formation by multiple Schwann cell processes were observed, suggesting recurrent Schwann cell dysfunction. Abundant aggregates of cytoplasmic microfilaments occurred in Schwann cells, endothelial cells, perineurial cells, endoneurial fibroblasts, and endomysial fibroblasts. These findings support the proposal that giant axonal neuropathy is a generalized disorder of cytoplasmic microfilaments and that segmental demyelination occurs concomitantly with axonal and Schwann cell disease. The pathogenesis of this rare disorder is discussed with reference to experimental toxic neuropathies.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Biopsy
  • Child
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure*
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Neurofibrils / ultrastructure
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Schwann Cells / ultrastructure
  • Sural Nerve / pathology