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ABSTRACT: To distinguish the role of Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) from that of cytoplasmic CuZn superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), the mouse MnSOD gene (Sod2) was inactivated by homologous recombination. Sod2−/− mice on a CD1 (outbred) genetic background die within the first 10 days of life (mean, 5.4 days) with a complex phenotype that includes dilated cardiomyopathy, accumulation of lipid in liver and skeletal muscle, metabolic acidosis and ketosis, and a severe reduction in succinate dehydrogenase (complex II) and aconitase (a TCA cycle enzyme) activities in the heart and, to a lesser extent, in other organs. These findings indicate that MnSOD is required to maintain the integrity of mitochondrial enzymes susceptible to direct inactivation by superoxide. On the other hand, Lebovitz et al. reported an independently derived MnSod null mouse (Sod2tmlLeb) on a mixed C57BL/6 and 129Sv background with a different phenotype. Because a difference in genetic background is the most likely explanation for the phenotypic differences, the two mutant lines were crossed into different genetic backgrounds for further analyses. To study the phenotype of Sod2tmlLeb mice CD1 background, the Sod2tmlLeb mice were crossed to CD1 for two generations before the −/+ mice were intercrossed to generate −/− mice. The life span distribution of CD1〈Sod2−/−〉Leb was shifted to the left, indicating a shortened life span on the CD1 background. Furthermore, the CD1〈Sod2−/−〉Leb mice develop metabolic acidosis at an early stage as was observed with CD1〈Sod2−/−〉Cje. When Sod2tmlCje was placed on C57BL/6J (B6) background, the −/− mice were found to die either during midgestation or within the first 4 days after birth. However, when the B6〈Sod2−/+〉Cje were crossed with DBA/2J (D2) for the generation of B6D2F2〈Sod2−/−〉Cje mice, an entirely different phenotype, similar to that described by Lebovitz et al., was observed. The F2 Sod−/− mice were able to survive up to 18 days, and the animals that lived for more than 15 days displayed neurological abnormalities including ataxia and seizures. Their hearts were not as severely affected as were those of the CD1 mice, and neurological degeneration rather than heart defect appears to be the cause of death.