Background: Fatty acid oxidation disorders may cause sudden and unexpected infant death and are associated with the histological hallmark of hepatic steatosis. The goal of the present study was to assess the value of post-mortem molecular analysis for medium-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase (MCAD) and mitochondrial trifunctional protein (MTP) defects in unexplained sudden infant death (SID) associated with fatty infiltration of the liver. MCAD catalyzes the first step of medium-chain fatty acid oxidation while MTP catalyzes the last three steps of long-chain fatty acid oxidation.
Methods: In a retrospective study, 220 consecutive cases of sudden and unexplained infant death certified by medical examiners at Wake Forest University Medical Center were assessed for hepatic steatosis. Subjects with evidence of hepatic steatosis were screened for mutations in MCAD and MTPα-subunit using DNA isolated from paraffin-embedded liver tissue, single-strand conformation variance, and nucleotide sequence analyses.
Results: Sixteen cases (7.3%) were associated with diffuse micro-vesicular or mixed micro- and macro-vesicular hepatic steatosis. Two of these 16 cases (12.5%) had disease-causing mutations. One was homozygous for the prevalent MCAD A985G mutation. The second was a compound heterozygous for the prevalent MTP G1528C mutation and a novel 1 bp deletion in exon 18 of the MTPα-subunit gene.
Conclusions: A significant proportion (7.3%) of SID is associated with hepatic steatosis. The present data support post-mortem molecular analysis for the MCAD A985G and MTP G1528C prevalent mutations in cases of sudden and unexplained infant death associated with hepatic steatosis.