Mitochondrial fatty acid -oxidation (FAO) is the primary pathway for fatty acid metabolism in humans, performing a key role in liver, heart and skeletal muscle energy homeostasis. FAO is particularly important during times of fasting when glucose supply is limited, providing energy for many organs and tissues, including the heart, liver and brain. Deficiencies in FAO can cause life-threatening metabolic disorders in early childhood that present with liver dysfunction, hypoglycemia, dilated hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Reye-like Syndrome.
Alternatively, FAO defects can also cause ‘milder’ adult-onset disease with exercise-induced myopathy and
rhabdomyolysis. Short-chain enoyl-CoA hydratase (ECHS1) is a key FAO enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acyl-CoA esters. ECHS1 deficiency (ECHS1D) also causes human disease; however, the clinical manifestation is unlike most other FAO disorders. ECHS1D patients commonly present with Leigh syndrome, a lethal form of subacute necrotizing encephalomyelopathy traditionally associated with defects in oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS).
In this article, we review the clinical, biochemical and genetic features of the ESHS1D patients described to date, and discuss the significance of the secondary OXPHOS defects associated with ECHS1D and their contribution to overall disease pathogenesis.
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