Lifelong treatment of phenylketonuria (PKU) includes a phenylalanine (phe) restricted diet that provides sufficient phe for growth and maintenance plus phe-free amino acid formula to meet requirements for protein, energy and micronutrients. Phe tolerance (mg phe/kg body weight/day) is the amount of phe those with PKU can consume and maintain acceptable blood phe levels; it requires individual assessment because of varying phenylalanine hydroxylase activity. The objective was to reassess phe tolerance in 8 adults with PKU considering phe requirements, blood phe levels, genotype and phe tolerance at 5 years of age. Subjects had not received a personalized assessment of phe tolerance in several years, and 5 subjects were overweight, body mass index (BMI) 25–28. With the guidance of a metabolic dietitian, 7 subjects increased phe tolerance (by 15–173%) without significantly increasing blood phe concentration. Increased phe tolerance was associated with both improved dietary compliance and inadequate phe intake at the onset of the protocol compared with current requirements. Improved dietary compliance reflected increased consumption of protein equivalents from amino acid formula and increased frequency of formula intake, from 2.2 to 3 times per day. Predictors of higher final phe tolerance following reassessment included being male and having a lower BMI (R2=0.588). This suggests that the rising trend of overweight and obesity may affect assessment of phe tolerance in adults. Therefore, interaction with the metabolic dietitian to reassess phe tolerance in relation to body mass is essential throughout adulthood to insure adequate intake of phe to support protein synthesis and prevent catabolism.
PKU; amino acid requirements; genotype-phenotype relationship; low-phenylalanine diet
Phenylketonuria (PKU) requires a lifelong low-phenylalanine (phe) diet where protein needs are met by consumption of a phe-free amino acid (AA) formula; complaints of persistent hunger are common. Foods made with glycomacropeptide (GMP), an intact protein that contains minimal phe and may promote satiety, provide an alternative to AA formula. The objective was to assess the ability of a GMP breakfast to promote satiety and affect plasma concentrations of AAs, insulin, and the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin in those with PKU, when compared to an AA-based breakfast. Eleven PKU subjects (8 adults and 3 boys ages 11–14) served as their own controls in an inpatient metabolic study with two 4-day treatments: an AA-based diet followed by a diet replacing all AA formula with GMP foods. Plasma concentrations of AAs, insulin and ghrelin were obtained before and/or 180 minutes after breakfast. Satiety was assessed using a visual analog scale before, immediately after and 180 minutes after breakfast. Postprandial ghrelin concentration was significantly lower (p=0.03) with GMP compared to an AA-based breakfast, with no difference in fasting ghrelin. Lower postprandial ghrelin concentrations were associated with greater feelings of fullness 180 minutes after breakfast suggesting greater satiety with GMP compared to AAs. Postprandial concentrations of insulin and total plasma AAs were higher after a GMP breakfast compared to an AA-based breakfast consistent with slower absorption of AAs from GMP. These results show sustained ghrelin suppression, and suggest greater satiety with ingestion of a meal containing GMP compared with AAs.
satiety; hunger; insulin; PKU; GMP
Dietary control of classic phenylketonuria (PKU) needs restriction of natural proteins; adequate protein intake is achieved by adding low phenylalanine (phe) formulae. The adequacy of this diet for normal bone mineralization had not been sufficiently evaluated. Our aim was to evaluate and follow up bone mineral density (BMD) in children and adolescents with PKU within a 2-year time interval to assess the adequacy of a phenylalanine restricted diet for bone mineralization and to search for a possible relationship between BMD, dietary control and blood phenylalanine (phe) concentrations.
Material and methods
Thirty-two patients with classic PKU (3-19 years) were evaluated for their bone mineral status using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) both at the beginning (baseline) and the end (follow-up) of the study.
Low BMD was detected in 31.25% at the start and in 6.25% of patients after 2 years follows-up. No relationship was found between BMD and the duration of diet compliance and phe level as well.
In this study the low BMD detected in our patients was both at baseline and follow-up independent of diet restriction. A yearly DEXA would be highly beneficial for early detection and treatment, thus preventing osteoporosis and decreasing the risk of fractures. We also suggest the importance of searching for new emerging therapies such as enzyme substitution or gene therapy as low protein diet compliance was not enough to maintain normal bone mineral density.
phenylketonuria; osteoporosis; bone mineral density; diet
Phenylketonuria (PKU), caused by phenylalanine (phe) hydroxylase loss of function mutations, requires a low-phe diet plus amino acid (AA) formula to prevent cognitive impairment. Glycomacropeptide (GMP), a low-phe whey protein, provides a palatable alternative to AA formula. Skeletal fragility is a poorly understood chronic complication of PKU. We sought to characterize the impact of the PKU genotype and dietary protein source on bone biomechanics.
Wild type (WT; Pah+/+) and PKU (Pahenu2/enu2) mice on a C57BL/6J background were fed high-phe casein, low-phe AA, and low-phe GMP diets between 3 to 23 weeks of age. Following euthanasia, femur biomechanics were assessed by 3-point bending and femoral diaphyseal structure was determined. Femoral ex vivo bone mineral density (BMD) was assessed by dual-enengy x-ray absorptiometry. Whole bone parameters were used in prinicipal component analysis. Data were analyzed by 3-way ANCOVA with genotype, sex, and diet as the main factors.
Regardless of diet and sex, PKU femora were more brittle, as manifested by lower post-yield displacement, weaker, as manifested by lower energy and yield and maximal loads, and showed reduced BMD compared with WT femora. Four principal components accounted for 87% of the variance and all differed significantly by genotype. Regardless of genotype and sex, the AA diet reduced femoral cross-sectional area and consequent maximal load compared with the GMP diet.
Skeletal fragility, as reflected in brittle and weak femora, is an inherent feature of PKU. This PKU bone phenotype is attenuated by a GMP diet compared with an AA diet.
Background: Since 2008 patients with BH4-sensitive phenylketonuria can be treated with sapropterin dihydrochloride (Kuvan®) in addition to the classic phenylalanine (Phe) restricted diet. The aim of this study was to evaluate the nutritional changes and micronutrient supply in patients with phenylketonuria (PKU) under therapy with tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4).
Subjects and Methods: 19 children with PKU (4–18 years) and potential BH4-sensitivity were included, 14 completed the study protocol. Dried blood Phe concentrations as well as detailed dietary records were obtained throughout the study at preassigned study days.
Results: Eight patients could increase their Phe tolerance from 629 ± 476 mg to 2131 ± 1084 mg (P = 0.006) under BH4 while maintaining good metabolic control (Phe concentration in dried blood 283 ± 145 μM vs. 304 ± 136 μM, P = 1.0), therefore proving to be BH4-sensitive. They decreased their consumption of special low protein products and fruit while increasing their consumption of high protein foods such as processed meat, milk and dairy products. Intake of vitamin D (P = 0.016), iron (P = 0.002), calcium (P = 0.017), iodine (P = 0.005) and zinc (P = 0.046) significantly declined during BH4 treatment while no differences in energy and macronutrient supply occurred.
Conclusion: BH4-sensitive patients showed good metabolic control under markedly increased Phe consumption. However, the insufficient supply of some micronutrients needs consideration. Long-term multicenter settings with higher sample sizes are necessary to investigate the changes of nutrient intake under BH4 therapy to further evaluate potential risks of malnutrition. Supplementation may become necessary.
The main debate in the treatment of Phenylketonuria (PKU) is whether adult patients need the strict phenylalanine (Phe)-restricted diet. Physicians and patients lack evidence-based guidelines to help them make well-informed choices. We have carried out the first randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial into the effects of short-term elevation of Phe levels on neuropsychological functions and mood of adults with PKU. Nine continuously treated adults with PKU underwent two 4-week supplementation periods: one with Phe, mimicking normal dietary intake, and one with placebo in randomly allocated order via a randomisation coding list in a double-blind cross-over design. A set of neuropsychological tests (Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks) was administered at the end of each study period. In addition, patients and for each patient a friend or relative, completed weekly Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaires, evaluating the patients’ mood. Phe levels were measured twice weekly. Mean plasma Phe levels were significantly higher during Phe supplementation compared with placebo (p = 0.008). Neuropsychological tests demonstrated an impairment in sustained attention during Phe supplementation (p = 0.029). Both patients and their friend or relative reported lower scores on the POMS questionnaires during Phe supplementation (p = 0.017 and p = 0.040, respectively). High plasma Phe levels have a direct negative effect on both sustained attention and on mood in adult patients with PKU. A Phe-restricted “diet for life” might be an advisable option for many.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive disorder of phenylalanine metabolism. The inability to convert phenylalanine (Phe) into tyrosine causes Phe to accumulate in the body. Adherence to a protein restricted diet, resulting in reduced Phe levels, is essential to prevent cognitive decline. Frequent evaluation of plasma Phe levels and, if necessary, adjustment of the diet are the mainstay of treatment. We aimed to assess whether increased self-management of PKU patients and/or their parents is feasible and safe, by providing direct online access to blood Phe values without immediate professional guidance.
Thirty-eight patients aged ≥ 1 year participated in a 10 month randomized controlled trial. Patients were randomized into a study group (1) or a control group (2). Group 2 continued the usual procedure: a phone call or e-mail by a dietician in case of a deviant Phe value. Group 1 was given a personal "My PKU" web page with a graph of their recent and previous Phe values, online general information about the dietary treatment and the Dutch PKU follow-up guidelines, and a message-box to contact their dietician if necessary. Phe values were provided on "My PKU" without advice. Outcome measures were: differences in mean Phe value, percentage of values above the recommended range and Phe sample frequency, between a 10-month pre-study period and the study period in each group, and between the groups in both periods. Furthermore we assessed satisfaction of patients and/or parents with the 'My PKU' procedure of online availability.
There were no significant differences in mean Phe value, percentage of values above recommended range or in frequency of blood spot sampling for Phe determination between the pre-study period and the study period in each group, nor between the 2 groups during the periods. All patients and/or parents expressed a high level of satisfaction with the new way of disease management.
Increased self-management in PKU by providing patients and/or parents their Phe values without advice is feasible and safe and is highly appreciated.
The trial was registered with The Netherlands National Trial Register (NTR #1171) before recruitment of patients.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) and benign hyperphenylalaninaemia (HPA) result from a variety of mutations in the gene for the hepatic enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. PKU has been found in the Israeli population in two variants, classical and atypical. The two are clinically indistinguishable and require treatment with low phenylalanine diet to prevent mental retardation, but show differences in serum phenylalanine levels and in tolerance to this amino acid. Maternal PKU is a syndrome of congenital anomalies and mental retardation that appears in offspring of PKU mothers as a result of fetal exposure to the high phenylalanine level in the maternal blood. We studied a family in which two children with severe, classical PKU and their unaffected brother showed mild signs of maternal PKU. Their mother had no clinical signs of PKU, but the phenylalanine concentration in her serum reached a level that usually characterises PKU patients. This woman represents a rare phenotype, benign atypical PKU. Such 'hidden' PKU in women may lead to maternal PKU in the offspring, similar to overt PKU. Special attention should therefore be paid to women having children with any of the clinical hallmarks of maternal PKU, and to children born to women known to have benign HPA. The mother was also found to be homozygous for a missense mutation at the phenylalanine hydroxylase locus, R261Q, which does not abolish enzymatic activity completely. In two other families, homozygosity for this mutation resulted in atypical PKU in four children. This observation suggests that mutations that do not completely destroy phenylalanine hydroxylase activity may exhibit variable phenotypic expression which is unpredictable. Compound heterozygosity for R261Q and other mutations led in other patients either to classical PKU or to mild benign HPA.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive inherited metabolic disorder caused by a complete or near-complete deficiency of the liver enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH), which converts the amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine, leading to the increase of blood and tissue concentration of phenylalanine to toxic levels. PKU is not life threatening but is treated through lifelong dietary management. If untreated, it can lead to severe learning disability, brain function abnormalities, behavioural and neurological problems. The non-life threatening nature of PKU has until now caused some debate on whether to licence its detection by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). We report the first successful live birth in the UK following single cell embryo biopsy and PGD for the detection of two different mutations in the (PAH) gene. This case highlights both an important scientific development as well as the ethical challenge in offering couples who carry PKU this new reproductive option when starting their family.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive inborn error of phenylalanine (Phe) metabolism resulting from deficiency of phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). Most forms of PKU and hyperphenylalaninaemia (HPA) are caused by mutations in the PAH gene on chromosome 12q23.2. Untreated PKU is associated with an abnormal phenotype which includes growth failure, poor skin pigmentation, microcephaly, seizures, global developmental delay and severe intellectual impairment. However, since the introduction of newborn screening programs and with early dietary intervention, children born with PKU can now expect to lead relatively normal lives. A better understanding of the biochemistry, genetics and molecular basis of PKU, as well as the need for improved treatment options, has led to the development of new therapeutic strategies.
Despite the appearance of new treatment, dietary approach remains the mainstay of PKU therapy. The nutritional management has become complex to optimize PKU patients' growth, development and diet compliance. This paper review critically new advances and challenges that have recently focused attention on potential relevant of LCPUFA supplementation, progress in protein substitutes and new protein sources, large neutral amino acids and sapropterin. Given the functional effects, DHA is conditionally essential substrates that should be supplied with PKU diet in infancy but even beyond. An European Commission Programme is going on to establish quantitative DHA requirements in this population. Improvements in the palatability, presentation, convenience and nutritional composition of protein substitutes have helped to improve long-term compliance with PKU diet, although it can be expected for further improvement in this area. Glycomacropeptide, a new protein source, may help to support dietary compliance of PKU subject but further studies are needed to evaluate this metabolic and nutritional issues. The PKU diet is difficult to maintain in adolescence and adult life. Treatment with large neutral amino acids or sapropterin in selected cases can be helpful. However, more studies are necessary to investigate the potential role, dose, and composition of large neutral amino acids in PKU treatment and to show long-term efficacy and tolerance. Ideally treatment with sapropterin would lead to acceptable blood Phe control without dietary treatment but this is uncommon and sapropterin will usually be given in combination with dietary treatment, but clinical protocol evaluating adjustment of PKU diet and sapropterin dosage are needed.
In conclusion PKU diet and the new existing treatments, that need to be optimized, may be a complete and combined strategy possibly positive impacting on the psychological, social, and neurocognitive life of PKU patients.
PKU; treatment advances; new strategies; LCPUFA supplementation; LNAA; sapropterin
Sapropterin dihydrochloride, a synthetic, stable form of the tetrahydrobiopterin cofactor of phenylalanine hydroxylase, has been shown to reduce plasma phenylalanine (Phe) levels in a significant portion of patients with phenylketonuria (PKU). When we undertook introducing this medication to our PKU clinic population, the challenges of recalling and reconnecting with a variably treated and variably compliant patient population became apparent. We offered a trial of sapropterin to all of our clinic patients with PKU. In order to determine responsiveness, we used a 2 tier dose escalation protocol. After diet records were taken, and baseline plasma Phe levels were established, a 7-day trial of sapropterin at 10 mg/kg/day was started. At day 8, plasma phenylalanine levels were measured. Patients were considered to be responders if they had a 30% reduction in plasma Phe. If they did not respond, the dose of sapropterin was increased to 20 mg/kg/day, and levels were rechecked again in 8 days. Patients who were not responders at this time continued sapropterin for a total of 30 days and had Phe levels checked one last time. Patients who were responders and who were on a Phe restricted diet underwent gradual liberalization of their diet to the maximum tolerated natural protein intake while still maintaining plasma levels in the acceptable treatment range of 120–360 µmol/L. In our population, 36/39 patients with hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) who were offered a trial of sapropterin elected to start sapropterin. Five of 36 patients were non-adherent with diet records and/or medication doses and we were unable to determine if they were responders. We were unable to categorize 2 of 31 of the patients who completed the trial as responders due to dietary issues, though they were probably responders. Of the 29 patients who completed the sapropterin trial and we could categorize, 18/29 (62%) were determined to be responders. Patients were classified based on their off-diet diagnostic plasma phenylalanine levels as classical PKU (>1200 µmol/L) and variant PKU (>400and <1200 µmol/L). The group with variant PKU had a 100% response rate, and patients with classical PKU had a 27% response rate. For the patients in the responder group who were on Phe restricted diet, we were able to liberalize most diets, in two cases to unrestricted protein intake. We also had unexpected beneficial findings in our clinic experience, including positive behavioral improvements in an adult severely affected by untreated PKU. Even in patients who were not considered to be responders, the introduction of sapropterin provided a tool to reconnect with patients and re-introduce beneficial dietary measures.
phenylketonuria; sapropterin dihydrochloride; tetrahydrobiopterin
Context: Dietary management is the mainstay of effective treatment in PKU, but dietary restriction is difficult and additional treatment options are needed.
Objective: To systematically review evidence regarding sapropterin (BH4) use as an adjunct to dietary restriction in individuals with PKU.
Data Sources: Five databases including MEDLINE up to August 2011.
Study Selection: Two reviewers independently assessed studies against predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria.
Data Extraction: Two reviewers independently extracted data regarding participant and intervention characteristics and outcomes and assigned overall quality and strength of evidence ratings based on predetermined criteria.
Results: BH4 research includes two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and three uncontrolled open-label trials. Phenylalanine (Phe) levels were reduced by at least 30 % in up to half of treated participants (32–50 %). In one RCT comparing placebo on likelihood of a 30 % reduction in Phe, 9 % of those on placebo achieved this effect, compared with 44 % of the treated group after 6 weeks. Phe tolerance and variability were improved in treated participants in studies assessing those outcomes. No comparative studies assessed long-term outcomes including cognitive effects, nutritional status, or quality of life.
Conclusions: Adjuvant pharmacologic therapy has the potential to support individuals in achieving optimal Phe levels. BH4 has been shown to reduce Phe levels in some individuals, with significantly greater reductions seen in treated versus placebo groups. The strength of the evidence is moderate for short-term effects on reducing Phe in a subset of initially BH4-responsive individuals, moderate for a lack of significant harms, low for longer-term effects on cognition, and insufficient for all other outcomes.
The objective of this study was to determine if children with phenylketonuria (PKU) have lower fatty acid concentrations in total erythrocyte lipid due to the phenylalanine restricted diet therapy compared to healthy control subjects. Dietary intake and fatty acid concentrations in total erythrocyte lipid were measured in twenty-one subjects (≤6 years of age) with PKU and twenty-three control children. Subjects with PKU had significantly lower protein and significantly higher polyunsaturated fat intake compared to controls. Subjects with PKU had significantly lower concentrations in total erythrocyte lipid of the sum of the ω-3,ω-6, saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Concentrations of fatty acids among subjects with PKU were lower than control subjects but no subject with PKU exhibited any signs or symptoms suggestive of essential fatty acid deficiency, thereby suggesting that subjects with PKU in this cohort have normal and adequate essential fatty acid concentrations in total erythrocyte lipid.
Phenylketonuria; PKU; Fatty Acids; Lipids
Large neutral amino acids (LNAAs), including phenylalanine (Phe), compete for transport across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) via the L-type amino acid carrier. Accordingly, elevated plasma Phe impairs brain uptake of other LNAAs in patients with phenylketonuria (PKU). Direct effects of elevated brain Phe and depleted LNAAs are probably major causes for disturbed brain development and function in PKU. Competition for the carrier might conversely be put to use to lower Phe influx when the plasma concentrations of all other LNAAs are increased. This hypothesis was tested by measuring brain Phe in patients with PKU by quantitative 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy during an oral Phe challenge with and without additional supplementation with all other LNAAs. Baseline plasma Phe was ∼1,000 μmol/l and brain Phe was ∼250 μmol/l in both series. Without LNAA supplementation, brain Phe increased to ∼400 μmol/l after the oral Phe load. Electroencephalogram (EEG) spectral analysis revealed acutely disturbed brain activity. With concurrent LNAA supplementation, Phe influx was completely blocked and there was no slowing of EEG activity. These results are relevant for further characterization of the LNAA carrier and of the pathophysiology underlying brain dysfunction in PKU and for treatment of patients with PKU, as brain function might be improved by continued LNAA supplementation.
Few cases of premature infants with classical phenylketonuria (PKU) have been reported. Treatment of these patients is challenging due to the lack of a phenylalanine (Phe)-free amino acid (AA) solution for parenteral nutrition. A boy born at 27 weeks of gestation with a weight of 1000 g was diagnosed with classical PKU on day 7 because of highly elevated Phe level at newborn screening (2800 µmol/L). Phe intake was suspended for 5 days and during this time intravenous glucose and lipids as well as small amounts of Phe-free formula through nasogastric tube were given. Because of insufficient weight gain attributable to deficiency of essential AA, a Phe-reduced, BCAA-enriched parenteral nutrition was added to satisfy AA requirements without overloading in Phe. Under this regimen, the boy started to gain weight, Phe plasma levels progressively reduced and normalized on day 19. At the age of 40 months, the patient shows normal growth parameters (height 25th percentile, weight 25–50th percentile, head circumference 50th percentile) with a normal result for formally tested psychomotor development (WPPSI-III). The good outcome of the patient in spite of over 2 weeks of extremely high Phe concentrations suggests that the premature brain may still have enough plasticity to recover. Lacking a Phe-free intravenous AA solution, successful management of premature infants with PKU depends on the child's tolerance of enteral nutrition. Although the coincidence of PKU and prematurity is rare, there is strong need for the development of an appropriate Phe-free amino acid solution for parenteral nutrition especially in case of gastro-intestinal complications of prematurity.
phenylketonuria; PAH deficiency; prematurity; dietetic management.
Optimal medical management of phenylketonuria (PKU) requires the use of special low-phenylalanine foods for many years. For women with PKU, elevated maternal blood levels of phenylalanine even at conception can lead to fetal damage. Despite this need, private health insurance, Medicaid, and other public health programs often exclude the cost of these foods from their benefits. The New York State Department of Health conducted a survey of metabolic disorders treatment centers to elucidate the problems PKU patients have obtaining and paying for the special foods essential to their care. Payment for special foods was denied to nearly half of those with private health insurance policies and was covered for only 10 percent of Medicaid-eligibles. A public program for children with special health care needs covered these food costs in upstate New York but not in New York City. There is no program of assistance for adults who are not eligible for Medicaid and who do not have private insurance coverage of special foods. At present, many private health insurance policies and public programs do not cover the costs of low-phenylalanine foods other than infant formula. Payment for this essential part of the management of PKU should be mandated for all public programs for persons with chronic illnesses, public medical assistance (Medicaid) programs, and private health insurance. There is a need for a public program to assist adults with PKU who are not eligible for Medicaid and who do not have health insurance that covers these costs.
Successful restoration of phenylalanine (Phe) clearance following liver-directed gene therapy in murine phenylketonuria (PKU) is likely dependent upon both the number of cells successfully transduced and the amount of phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) activity expressed per cell. At low levels of transduction, Phe clearance could be limited by the low absolute number of PAH-expressing cells rather than the total amount of PAH activity produced in the liver. We have evaluated the interrelationship between the number of PAH positive cells, the amount of PAH activity produced and Phe clearance through experiments with hepatocyte-mediated therapeutic liver repopulation in the Pahenu2 mouse, a model of PKU. We compared the therapeutic efficacy of transplantation with either wild-type hepatocytes or hepatocytes from heterozygous Pahenu2/+ donors into PAH deficient, hyperphenylalaninemic Pahenu2/Pahenu2 mice. The recipient mice were also homozygous for fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH) deficiency. In this model system, FAH positive donor hepatocytes enjoy a selective growth advantage in the FAH-deficient recipient. If Phe clearance is governed predominantly by the total PAH activity, then more heterozygous cells, which express lower PAH activity than wild-type cells, should be required to correct Phe clearance. If the absolute donor cell number is more important, then wild-type hepatocytes should have no advantage over heterozygous cells. We successfully carried out therapeutic liver repopulation with heterozygous donor cells in fifteen mice and an additional thirteen transplants with wild-type cells. Blood Phe was successfully reduced in both transplant groups, and the relationship between the final blood Phe level and the extent of liver repopulation with donor cells did not differ between the two donor groups. Regardless of the type of donor cell, liver repopulation of approximately 3–10% was sufficient to at least partially reduce blood phenylalanine, and blood Phe levels were completely corrected in mice that had attained greater than approximately 10% liver repopulation. We conclude from our study that the absolute number of PAH-expressing cells likely governs Phe clearance at least at the levels of repopulation reported here and that the amount of PAH activity per donor cell is a less critical variable. The implication for liver-directed gene therapy of PKU is that only partial correction of cellular PAH deficiency may yet improve Phe clearance as long as a sufficient number of hepatocytes is successfully transduced.
phenylketonuria; phenylalanine; phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency; therapeutic liver repopulation; hepatocyte transplantation; mouse model
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is one of the most common inborn errors of metabolism with an annual incidence of approximately 1:16,000 live births in North America. Contemporary therapy relies upon lifelong dietary protein restriction and supplementation with phenylalanine-free medical foods. This therapy is expensive and unpalatable; dietary compliance is difficult to maintain throughout life. Non-adherence to the diet is associated with learning disabilities, adult-onset neurodegenerative disease, and maternal PKU syndrome. The fervent dream of many individuals with PKU is a more permanent cure for this disease. This paper will review ongoing efforts to develop viable cell-directed therapies, in particular cell transplantation and gene therapy, for the treatment of PKU.
cell transplantation; gene therapy; phenylalanine; phenylketonuria
The transport characteristics of the placenta, which favour higher phenylalanine concentrations in the fetus than in the mother, and regression data of head circumference at birth against phenylalanine concentration at conception in maternal phenylketonuria (PKU), suggest that treatment of maternal PKU should ideally aim to maintain plasma phenylalanine concentration within the normal range throughout pregnancy. A patient with classical PKU was treated from before conception by aiming to maintain plasma phenylalanine concentration within the range 50-150 mumol/l and tyrosine within the range 60-90 mumol/l. The diet was supplemented with phenylalanine-free amino acids (100-180 g/day) and tyrosine (0-5 g/day). Plasma amino acid concentrations were monitored weekly by amino acid analyser. Dietary phenylalanine intake ranged from 6 mg/kg/day at conception to 30 mg/kg/day at delivery. Normal weight gain and fetal growth were maintained throughout the pregnancy. A normal baby was born at term with a head circumference of 35.5 cm; at 1 year of age no abnormality is detectable. These results show that with careful monitoring and compliance it is possible, and may be advisable, to maintain plasma phenylalanine concentration within the normal range in the management of PKU pregnancy.
Oral administration of sapropterin hydrochloride, recently approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission, is a novel approach for the treatment of phenylketonuria (PKU), one of the most common inborn errors of metabolism. PKU is caused by an inherited deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH), and the pathophysiology of the disorder is related to chronic accumulation of the free amino acid phenylalanine in tissues. Contemporary therapy is based upon restriction of dietary protein intake, which leads to reduction of blood phenylalanine levels. This therapy is difficult to maintain throughout life, and dietary noncompliance is commonplace. Sapropterin dihydrochloride is a synthetic version of tetrahydrobiopterin, the naturally occurring pterin cofactor that is required for PAH-mediated phenylalanine hydroxylation. In a subset of individuals with PAH deficiency, sapropterin administration leads to reduction in blood phenylalanine levels independent of dietary protein. For these individuals, sapropterin is an effective novel therapy for PKU.
sapropterin dihydrochloride; phenylketonuria; phenylalanine; tetrahydrobiopterin
In phenylketonuria (PKU), the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase is deficient, resulting in a decreased conversion of phenylalanine (Phe) into tyrosine (Tyr). The severity of the disease is expressed as the tolerance for Phe at 5 yr of age. In PKU patients it is assumed that the decreased conversion of Phe into Tyr is directly correlated with the tolerance for Phe. We investigated this correlation by an in vivo stable isotope study. The in vivo residual hydroxylation was quantitated using a primed continuous infusion of L-[ring- 2H5]Phe and L-[1-13C]Tyr and the determination of the isotopic enrichments of L-[ring-2H5]Phe, L-[ring-2H4]Tyr, and L-[1-13C]Tyr in plasma. Previous reports by Thompson and coworkers (Thompson, G.N., and D. Halliday. 1990. J. Clin. Invest. 86:317-322; Thompson, G.N., J.H. Walter, J.V. Leonard, and D. Halliday. 1990. Metabolism. 39:799-807; Treacy, E., J.J. Pitt, K. Seller, G.N. Thompson, S. Ramus, and R.G.H. Cotton. 1996. J. Inherited Metab. Dis. 19:595- 602), applying the same technique, showed normal in vivo hydroxylation rates of Phe in almost all PKU patients. Therefore, our study was divided up in two parts. First, the method was re-evaluated. Second, the correlation between the in vivo hydroxylation of Phe and the tolerance for Phe was tested in seven classical PKU patients. Very low (0.13- 0.95 micromol/kg per hour) and normal (4.11 and 6.33 micromol/kg per hour) conversion rates were found in patients and controls, respectively. Performing the infusion study twice in the same patient and wash-out studies of the labels at the end of the experiment in a patient and control showed that the method is applicable in PKU patients and gives consistent data. No significant correlation was observed between the in vivo hydroxylation rates and the tolerances. The results of this study, therefore, showed that within the group of patients with classical PKU, the tolerance does not depend on the in vivo hydroxylation.
Two patients with phenylketonuria (PKU) requiring treatment were fed on low protein milks. Both had blood phenylalanine levels below 1200 micronmol/l (20mg/100 ml) until given a phenylalanine challenge. Phenylalanine content of mature breast milk may provide intakes similar to those used in treating PKU. Diagnosis of PKU is unlikely to be missed if screening is carried out on the sixth or seventh day of life because of higher phenylalanine in breast milk during the first week. Interpretation of screening tests requires knowledge of the infants' feeds and a blood phenylalanine above 360 micronmol/l (6 mg/100 ml) in the absence of tyrosinaemia requires careful investigation.
Indirect measurements have previously suggested that patients with classical phenylketonuria (PKU) do not convert significant amounts of phenylalanine to tyrosine. Low-dose continuous infusion techniques employing [2H5]phenylalanine and [2H2]tyrosine were used to quantitate in vivo phenylalanine hydroxylation in 10 subjects with classical phenylketonuria, 2 with hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA), and 7 controls. Plasma phenylalanine concentration ranged from 523 to 1,540 mumols/liter in PKU, 402 to 533 in HPA, and 49 to 54 in controls. Subjects with classical PKU hydroxylated mean +/- SD 4.8 +/- 2.2 mumols/kg per h (range 0.9-8.4) of phenylalanine to tyrosine and those with HPA 4.4 and 5.3, respectively. These rates were substantial in comparison with those in controls (6.3 +/- 1.6, 3.2-8.2). The significant hydroxylation in PKU and HPA subjects is likely to result from induction of activity of tyrosine hydroxylase towards phenylalanine by the greatly elevated phenylalanine concentration. The presence of such activity in PKU suggests that therapy aimed at promotion of this usually latent hydroxylating capacity may be a future alternative to dietary treatment of PKU.
Objective: To compare a gram protein exchange system (1g=50-mg Phenylalanine) with a unit exchange system (1unit=15-mg Phenylalanine) and its effect on the blood Phenylalanine (Phe) levels and acceptance in the dietary management for children and adolescents with Phenylketonuria.
Methods: In Phase One, participants were randomised to continue counting Phe unit exchanges (n=8) or changed to counting gram protein exchanges (n=10), using a new diet chart developed in-house. Foods containing less than 20mg Phe per serve were now considered “free.” Interim data analysis confirmed no significant deterioration in Phe levels of the study group and the control group was changed to protein counting.
In Phase Two, 18 participants were educated to use an updated version of the in-house diet chart – in this version foods containing less than 50mg Phe per serve were considered “free.”
In both phases, attitudes to PKU and its management were evaluated at baseline and 6months. Phenylalanine and tyrosine levels were measured from filter paper blood spots by tandem mass spectrometry.
Results: Phase One: Phe levels over 6months were comparable to pre-study levels (mean Phe pre 366μmol/L+/− 169, mean Phe post change=388μmol/L+/− 160).
Phase Two: Four participants had a significant improvement in blood Phe levels, nine showed no significant change and one participant’s levels were significantly higher. There was incomplete data on four participants. All participants preferred the freer diet chart.
Conclusion: Protein exchanges (foods containing less than 50mg Phe/serve uncounted) are an alternative method of measuring Phe intake in the dietary management of Phenylketonuria.