Diagnosis and therapy of Menkes syndrome, a genetic form of copper deficiency

Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;67(5 Suppl):1029S-1034S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/67.5.1029S.


In the 25 y since copper deficiency was first delineated in persons with Menkes syndrome, advances in our understanding of the clinical, biochemical, and molecular aspects of this rare disorder have surpassed progress in the design of effective therapies. In contrast with purely nutritional copper deficiency, in which copper replacement can be curative, the nature of the basic defect in Menkes syndrome suggests that corrective efforts are likely to be more complicated, a point supported by the cumulative literature on this topic as well as by emerging molecular data. In this paper, certain clinical, biochemical, and molecular aspects of copper histidine treatment in 25 Menkes syndrome patients at the National Institutes of Health are reviewed. The delineation of a distinctive neurochemical pattern in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, reflecting deficiency of the copper enzyme dopamine beta-monooxygenase, is arguably the most important finding in the study of Menkes syndrome. This abnormal pattern has proven extremely reliable as a rapid diagnostic test, enabling early identification of affected infants--a fundamental requirement for improving clinical outcomes. Of 11 patients identified by prenatal or prompt postnatal testing and treated within the first 10 d of age, one walked at 14 mo of age and has normal neurodevelopment at age 3 y and another infant's early progress appears promising. However, five patients died in infancy and neurodevelopmental outcome was suboptimal in four others. Consideration of additional therapeutic strategies seems necessary, therefore, for most patients and families facing this troublesome form of copper deficiency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copper / deficiency
  • Copper / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / etiology
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / genetics
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / therapy
  • Phenotype
  • Prenatal Diagnosis


  • Copper