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Logo of jcinvestThe Journal of Clinical InvestigationCurrent IssueArchiveSubscriptionAbout the Journal
J Clin Invest. 1998 July 15; 102(2): 361–370.
PMCID: PMC508894

Molecular genetics of palmitoyl-protein thioesterase deficiency in the U.S.


Mutations in a newly described lysosomal enzyme, palmitoyl-protein thioesterase (PPT), were recently shown to be responsible for an autosomal recessive neurological disorder prevalent in Finland, infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. The disease results in blindness, motor and cognitive deterioration, and seizures. Characteristic inclusion bodies (granular osmiophilic deposits [GROD]) are found in the brain and other tissues. The vast majority of Finnish cases are homozygous for a missense mutation (R122W) that severely affects PPT enzyme activity, and the clinical course in Finnish children is uniformly rapidly progressive and fatal. To define the clinical, biochemical, and molecular genetic characteristics of subjects with PPT deficiency in a broader population, we collected blood samples from U.S. and Canadian subjects representing 32 unrelated families with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis who had GROD documented morphologically. We measured PPT activity and screened the coding region of the PPT gene for mutations. In 29 of the families, PPT deficiency was found to be responsible for the neurodegenerative disorder, and mutations were identified in 57 out of 58 PPT alleles. One nonsense mutation (R151X) accounted for 40% of the alleles and was associated with severe disease in the homozygous state. A second mutation (T75P) accounted for 13% of the alleles and was associated with a late onset and protracted clinical course. A total of 19 different mutations were found, resulting in a broader spectrum of clinical presentations than previously seen in the Finnish population. Symptoms first appeared at ages ranging from 3 mo to 9 yr, and about half of the subjects have survived into the second or even third decades of life.

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