Abstract Acetyl-dl-leucine is a derivative of the branched chain amino acid leucine. In observational clinical studies, acetyl-dl-leucine improved symptoms of ataxia, in particular in patients with the lysosomal storage disorder, Niemann-Pick disease type C1. Here, we investigated acetyl-dl-leucine and its enantiomers acetyl-l-leucine and acetyl-d-leucine in symptomatic Npc1−/− mice and observed improvement in ataxia with both individual enantiomers and acetyl-dl-leucine. When acetyl-dl-leucine and acetyl-l-leucine were administered pre-symptomatically to Npc1−/− mice, both treatments delayed disease progression and extended life span, whereas acetyl-d-leucine did not. These data are consistent with acetyl-l-leucine being the neuroprotective enantiomer. Altered glucose and antioxidant metabolism were implicated as one of the potential mechanisms of action of the l-enantiomer in Npc1−/− mice. When the standard of care drug miglustat and acetyl-dl-leucine were used in combination significant synergy resulted. In agreement with these pre-clinical data, when Niemann-Pick disease type C1 patients were evaluated after 12 months of acetyl-dl-leucine treatment, rates of disease progression were slowed, with stabilization or improvement in multiple neurological domains. A beneficial effect of acetyl-dl-leucine on gait was also observed in this study in a mouse model of GM2 gangliosidosis (Sandhoff disease) and in Tay-Sachs and Sandhoff disease patients in individual-cases of off-label-use. Taken together, we have identified an unanticipated neuroprotective effect of acetyl-l-leucine and underlying mechanisms of action in lysosomal storage diseases, supporting its further evaluation in clinical trials in lysosomal disorders.
Oxford University Press (OUP)