Tetrahydrobiopterin-responsive phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency, state of the art

L.J.M. Spaapen*, M.E. Rubio-Gozalbo

*Corresponding author for this work

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Tetrahydrobiopterin-responsive phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency, state of the art.

Spaapen LJ, Rubio-Gozalbo ME.

Department of Biochemical Genetics, Academic Hospital, Maastricht, The Netherlands. leo.spaapen@gen.unimaas.nl

Since 1999 an increasing number of patients with phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) deficiency are reported to be able to decrease their plasma phenylalanine (Phe) concentrations after a 6R-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH(4)) challenge. The majority of these patients have mild PKU or MHP (mild hyperphenylalaninemia) and harbour at least one missense mutation in the PAH gene associated with this phenotype. The rate of decrease and the lowest achieved Phe level vary between patients with different genotypes but appears to be similar in patients with the same genotype. A number of the mutations associated with BH(4)-responsiveness have been studied in an 'in vitro' eukaryotic cell expression system leading to biosynthesis of a mutant PAH enzyme with some residual activity. Patients bearing mutations that cause severe structural distortion in the expressed protein (loss of function mutations), leading to undetectable PAH activity, are not responsive to BH(4). These observations suggest that residual PAH activity (in vitro) is a prerequisite for BH(4)-responsiveness. However, an in vitro residual PAH activity is not a guarantee for in vivo BH(4)-responsiveness. Mechanisms behind this responsiveness could be relieve of decreased binding affinity for BH(4), BH(4)-mediated increase of PAH gene expression or stabilization of the mutant enzyme protein by BH(4). BH(4)-responsive PAH-deficient patients have only been reported since 1999. For the western countries this is explained by the fact that the manufacturer changed the diastereoisomeric purity of the BH4 preparation from 69% of the natural 6R-BH4 (31% of 6S-BH4) to 99.5% 6R-BH4. The new findings on BH(4)-responsiveness may be of clinical relevance because these patients can be treated with BH(4) with concomitant relief or withdrawal of the burdensome PKU diet. These observations warrant further clinical studies to assess efficacy, optimal dosage, and safety of BH(4) treatment in this group. The data strongly emphasize the necessity of the BH(4) loading test in patients detected in the newborn PKU screening.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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