Metachromatic leukodystrophy is a lysosomal sphingolipid storage disorder caused by the deficiency of arylsulfatase A. The disease is characterized by progressive demyelination, causing various neurologic symptoms. Since no naturally occurring animal model of the disease is available, we have generated arylsulfatase A-deficient mice. Deficient animals store the sphingolipid cerebroside-3-sulfate in various neuronal and nonneuronal tissues. The storage pattern is comparable to that of affected humans, but gross defects of white matter were not observed up to the age of 2 years. A reduction of axonal cross-sectional area and an astrogliosis were observed in 1-year-old mice; activation of microglia started at 1 year and was generalized at 2 years. Purkinje cell dendrites show an altered morphology. In the acoustic ganglion numbers of neurons and myelinated fibers are severely decreased, which is accompanied by a loss of brainstem auditory-evoked potentials. Neurologic examination reveals significant impairment of neuromotor coordination
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