Thiamine-deficient encephalopathy is characterized by morphologic lesions in the brainstem and less extensively in the cerebellum, but the early neurologic signs reverse rapidly and fully with thiamine, indicating a metabolic disorder. The suggested causal mechanisms of the encephalopathy involve two thiamine-dependent enzymes: (a) impairment of pyruvate decarboxylase activity with decreased cerebral energy (ATP) synthesis, and (b) reduction of transketolase activity with possible impairment of the hexose monophosphate shunt and subsequent decrease in NADPH formation. The latter may be important in maintaining glutathione in a reduced form (GSH), which apparently functions by keeping enzymes in a reduced (active) conformation.


David W. McCandless, Steven Schenker


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