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Diagnosis of mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalopathy disease in gastrointestinal biopsies

Journal title
Human pathology
Publication year
Perez-Atayde, A. R.

A 14-year-old boy with mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalopathy (MNGIE) disease had a lifelong history of failure to thrive and gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, pain, and diarrhea, leading to progressive cachexia. At the age of 9 years, after an extensive workup, the diagnosis of Crohn disease was strongly suspected, and he underwent colonoscopy with multiple biopsies. At 11 years of age, vision change and poor balance lead to a diagnosis of leukodystrophy by magnetic resonance imaging. Investigations for metachromatic leukodystrophy, adrenal leukodystrophy, and globoid cell leukodystrophy were all negative. A diagnosis of MNGIE disease was suspected when he continued deteriorating with gastrointestinal symptoms, multiple neurologic deficits, and encephalopathy. Markedly diminished thymidine phosphorylase activity and increased thymidine plasma levels confirmed the diagnosis of MNGIE. At autopsy, megamitochondria were observed by light microscopy in submucosal and myenteric ganglion cells and in smooth muscle cells of muscularis mucosae and muscularis propria, along the entire gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum. Megamitochondria in ganglion cells were also observed in a retrospective review of the endoscopic intestinal biopsies taken at age 9 and 13 years and in the appendectomy specimen obtained 1 month before his demise. This study corroborates the presence of megamitochondria in gastrointestinal ganglion cells in MNGIE disease, better illustrates their detailed morphology, and describes for the first time similar structures in the cytoplasm of gastrointestinal smooth muscle cells. Pathologists should be able to recognize these structures by light microscopy and be aware of their association with primary mitochondriopathies.

Research abstracts