Metabolic Dysfunction in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 May 31;22(11):5913. doi: 10.3390/ijms22115913.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder leading to paralysis, muscle atrophy, and death. Significant advances in antisense oligonucleotide treatment and gene therapy have made it possible for SMA patients to benefit from improvements in many aspects of the once devastating natural history of the disease. How the depletion of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein, the product of the gene implicated in the disease, leads to the consequent pathogenic changes remains unresolved. Over the past few years, evidence toward a potential contribution of gastrointestinal, metabolic, and endocrine defects to disease phenotype has surfaced. These findings ranged from disrupted body composition, gastrointestinal tract, fatty acid, glucose, amino acid, and hormonal regulation. Together, these changes could have a meaningful clinical impact on disease traits. However, it is currently unclear whether these findings are secondary to widespread denervation or unique to the SMA phenotype. This review provides an in-depth account of metabolism-related research available to date, with a discussion of unique features compared to other motor neuron and related disorders.

Keywords: amino acids; body composition; fat; gastrointestinal; glucose; metabolism; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / metabolism
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / therapy
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use
  • Phenotype
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein / genetics*


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein