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Molybdenum cofactor deficiency (MOCOD) is a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by sulphite oxidase enzyme deficiency. The neuropathological findings are consistent with a toxic insult to the brain that causes severe neuronal loss, reactive astrogliosis and spongiosis. The mechanisms responsible for these changes are unknown.
The case is a male infant with MOCOD who died at nine months of age from pneumonia. At autopsy, a complete neuropathological examination was performed including conventional immunohistochemical staining. In addition, brain sections were stained cytochemically with shikata and orcein which stain for disulphide bonds. The elemental composition of cortical cells was then analyzed in the scanning electron microscope using backscatter electron imaging and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry.
Neurons demonstrated cytoplasmic staining with shikata and orcein cytochemically when compared to control sections. Energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry analysis of these neurons confirmed the presence of excess sulphur and unexpectedly revealed excess magnesium accumulation. None of these findings was found in an age-matched control.
In MOCOD we found abnormal accumulation of sulphur and magnesium in neurons. It is postulated that sulphur-containing compound(s) that are formed as a result of MOCOD cause excitotoxic neuronal injury in the presence of excess magnesium.
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