[Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy presenting with protein-losing gastroenteropathy and serum copper deficiency: a case report]

Rinsho Shinkeigaku. 1997 Oct;37(10):917-22.
[Article in Japanese]


We report a 56-year old female with mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE), presenting with protein-losing gastroenteropathy and serum copper deficiency. There was no neuromuscular disease in her family members. Three years prior to admission, she developed severe gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and ascites, and was diagnosed as having protein-losing gastroenteropathy based on alpha(1)-antitrypsin clearance and other tests. She was referred to our department when neurological symptoms were apparent. Neurological examinations revealed bilateral ptosis, ophthalmoplegia, hearing loss, facial and limb muscle weakness, mild sensory deficit of vibration on her feet and hypoactive deep tendon reflexes. Pigmentary retinopathy, cerebellar ataxia and heart block were not seen. Serum copper level was decreased to 45 micrograms/dl (normal: 83-155). Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction was proven by X-ray studies, and diffuse leukoencephalopathy demonstrated on brain MRI. On EMG, motor nerve conduction velocities were prolonged with temporal dispersion. Her muscle biopsy from biceps brachii muscle showed both neuropathic and myopathic changes, scattered ragged-red fibers and focal cytochrome c oxidase deficiency. Southern blot and polymerase chain reaction analysis on mitochondrial DNA showed no deletions nor point mutations. The clinical and pathologic findings of the present patient fulfilled the diagnostic criteria of mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE) proposed by Hirano et al. There are few reported patients with MNGIE in Japan, but none presented with protein-losing gastroenteropathy and serum copper deficiency. Since the copper is a cofactor of cytochrome c oxidase, decreased serum copper level may aggravate the respiratory chain enzyme metabolism in mitochondria. Therefore, treatment for gastrointestinal tract disturbance and copper administration may be necessary to prevent disease progression.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Cytochrome-c Oxidase Deficiency
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction / complications
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathies / diagnosis*
  • Motor Neuron Disease
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Ophthalmoplegia
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathies / diagnosis*
  • Syndrome


  • Copper