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July 1992

Increased Metallothionein in the Liver and Kidney of Patients With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurology (Drs Sillevis Smitt, Louwerse, and de Jong), Neuropathology (Dr Troost), and Occupational and Environmental Health (Dr de Wolff), Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, and the Department of Biochemistry and Toxicology, Central Veterinary Institute, Lelystad (Mr van Beek, Dr Baars, and Ms Krops-Hermus), the Netherlands.

Arch Neurol. 1992;49(7):721-724. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530310063013

• To evaluate the putative role of metals and trace elements in the pathogenesis of classic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, we studied the metallothionein levels in liver and kidney samples obtained at autopsy from 24 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 18 controls. To assay metallothioneins and copper, cadmium, and zinc bound to metallothioneins, we used high-performance liquid chromatography directly coupled to flame atomic absorption spectrometry. Total cadmium, zinc, and copper concentrations were determined separately with the use of graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry with Zeeman background correction. The median liver metallothionein level was 60.3 mg/kg (range, 9 to 318 mg/kg) in the patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 12.6 mg/kg (range, 0 to 104.5 mg/kg) in the controls. In the kidney, median metallothionein levels were 126.9 mg/kg (range, 44 to 387 mg/kg) in the patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 64 mg/kg (range, 13.1 to 187 mg/kg) in the controls. Total zinc, cadmium, and copper concentrations, as measured by atomic absorption spectrometry, were not significantly different in patients vs controls. Our finding of elevated metallothionein levels in organs from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may indicate an increased exposure to metals.

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