These disorders are mostly congenital disorders, meaning the symptoms occur already from birth. Amino acids are important for the brain, so most of these cause mental problems. The most important disorders of amino acid metabolism are:
- Disorders of amino acid transport
- Hartnup disease
- Methionine malabsorption syndrome
- Disorders of amino acid metabolism
- Maple syrup urine disease
Amino acids are transported into cells by active transport. Different transporter proteins exist for six types of amino acids:
- Group I – neutral amino acids – Ala, Ser, Tyr, Phe
- Group II – neutral amino acids – Met, Leu, Val, Ile
- Group III – Imino-acids – Gly, Pro, hydroxyproline
- Group IV – Acidic amino acids – Glu, Asp
- Group V – Basic amino acids – Lys, Arg, Orn
- Group VI – Cysteine
This means that for example glutamate and aspartate are transported by the same transporter proteins. Methionine, leucine, valine and isoleucine are all transported by the same transporter protein, and so on. This means that in theory, if you consume very much of an amino acid in one group will the absorption of the other amino acids in the same group be competitively inhibited.
This is especially problematic if a lot of non-essential amino acids are consumed and not a lot of essential ones, potentially causing competitive inhibition of the absorption of the essential ones, causing deficiency. Like, if you consume a lot of alanine will you inhibit the absorption of the essential amino acid phenylalanine.
Disorders of amino acid transport
|Disorder||Substrate affected||Tissues affected||Symptoms|
|Hartnup disease||Tryptophan||Intestine||Pellagra-like symptoms (3 D’s)|
|Cystinuria||Cystine||Kidney||Cystine kidney stones|
|Methionine malabsorption syndrome||Methionine||Intestine||Diarrhoea, mental retardation|
Disorders of amino acid metabolism
|Phenylketonuria||Phenylalanine hydroxylase||Mental retardation|
|Tyrosinosis (tyrosinaemia type II)||Tyrosine aminotransferase||Mental retardation|
|Alkaptonuria||Homogentisate 1,2-dioxygenase||Black pigmentation of urine and skin, mental retardation|
|Albinism||Tyrosinase||Hypopigmentation, visual problems|
|Oxalosis||Enzymes that convert glycine into oxalate||Calcium oxalate stones|
|Maple syrup urine disease||Branched-chain α-ketoacid dehydrogenase complex||Mental retardation, demyelination, sweet-smelling urine|
|Homocystinuria||Cystathionine β-synthase, others||Delayed growth, mental retardation, others|
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is characterized by the deficiency of phenylalanine hydroxylase. This increases the levels of phenylalanine and its by-products. These by-products impair the CNS, causing mental retardation. Excess phenylketonuria inhibits transport of other, important amino acids, which are essential for brain development.
Treatment involves a phenylalanine-free diet. New-borns are screened for their blood phenylalanine levels.
A special type of phenylketonuria is malignant phenylketonuria, where the defect is the deficiency of THB (tetrahydrobiopterin), a cofactor. This condition is more severe than classic PKU.
Homocystinuria is classically characterised by deficiency of cystathionine β-synthase, but deficiency of other enzymes may cause it as well. It causes elevated level of homocysteine in the blood (hyperhomocysteinaemia) and urine.
Hyperhomocysteinaemia may also occur in folic acid and B12 deficiency. Whether caused by vitamin deficiency or genetic defects are the consequences the same:
- Homocysteine has a prothrombic effect
- It promotes atherosclerosis – by increases LDL oxidation
- It interferes with collagen polymerization
50. Hypo-, hyper- and dys-proteinemia
52. Disorders of nucleic acid metabolism. Gout