Prenatal diagnosis of metachromatic leukodystrophy in a family with pseudo arylsulfatase A deficiency by the cerebroside sulfate loading test

Pediatr Res. 1980 Mar;14(3):224-7. doi: 10.1203/00006450-198003000-00009.


Prenatal diagnosis was requested by a family at risk for metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). An examination of the family leukocyte arylsulfatase A profile revealed that the mother had pseudo arylsulfatase A deficiency. Cultured amniotic fluid cells were deficient in arylsulfatase A, so two possibilities were indicated: the fetus was affected with MLD or had the pseudodeficiency phenotype. The only known biochemical test to differentiate the two enzyme deficient phenotypes is cerebroside sulfate loading of growing fibroblasts. The pseudodeficient cells hydrolyze the incorporated sulfatide as efficiently as control cells, whereas MLD cells show no hydrolysis. Application of this test to the at risk cultured amniotic fluid cells resulted in appreciable uptake of the sulfolipid, but no hydrolysis. Control amniotic fluid cell cultures hydrolyzed 82 to 95% of the incorporated sulfatide. Therefore, an affected fetus was indicated. Fibroblasts derived from the aborted fetus showed a deficiency of arylsulfatase A and a similar inability to hydrolyze cerebroside sulfate in the loading test. The loading technique allowed the prenatal diagnosis of MLD when the arylsulfatase A analysis was equivocal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amniotic Fluid / cytology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebroside-Sulfatase / deficiency*
  • Cerebrosides / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / diagnosis*
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Sulfatases / deficiency*


  • Cerebrosides
  • Sulfatases
  • Cerebroside-Sulfatase