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Allied Disorders >

Disorders of Amino Acid Metabolism

              Phenylketonuria             

              Tyrosinemia      

              Homocystinuria

              Maple Sugar Urine Disease

What is Tyrosinemia?

Tyrosinemia is a genetic disorder characterized by elevated blood levels of the amino acid tyrosine, a building block of most proteins. Tyrosinemia is caused by the shortage (deficiency) of one of the enzymes required for the multistep process that breaks down tyrosine. If untreated, tyrosine and its byproducts build up in tissues and organs, which leads to serious medical problems.

There are three types of tyrosinemia. Each has distinctive symptoms and is caused by the deficiency of a different enzyme. Type I tyrosinemia, the most severe form of this disorder, is caused by a shortage of the enzyme fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase. Symptoms usually appear in the first few months of life and include failure to gain weight and grow at the expected rate (failure to thrive), diarrhea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), cabbage-like odor, and increased tendency to bleed (particularly nosebleeds). Type I tyrosinemia can lead to liver and kidney failure, problems affecting the nervous system, and an increased risk of liver cancer.

Type II tyrosinemia is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme tyrosine aminotransferase. This form of the disorder can affect the eyes, skin, and mental development. Symptoms often begin in early childhood and include excessive tearing, abnormal sensitivity to light (photophobia), eye pain and redness, and painful skin lesions on the palms and soles. About 50 percent of individuals with type II tyrosinemia have some degree of intellectual disability.

Type III tyrosinemia is a rare disorder caused by a deficiency of the enzyme 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase. Characteristic features include intellectual disability, seizures, and periodic loss of balance and coordination (intermittent ataxia).

What is Homocystinuria?

Homocystinuria is an inherited disorder in which the body is unable to process certain building blocks of proteins (amino acids) properly. The most common form of the condition is caused by the lack of an enzyme called cystathionine beta-synthase. This form of homocystinuria is characterized by dislocation of the lens in the eye, an increased risk of abnormal blood clots, and skeletal abnormalities. Problems with development and learning are also evident in some cases.

Less common forms of homocystinuria are caused by a lack of other enzymes involved in processing amino acids. These disorders can cause intellectual disability, seizures, problems with movement, and a blood disorder called megaloblastic anemia.

What is Maple Syrup Urine Disease?

Maple syrup urine disease is an inherited disorder in which the body is unable to process certain protein building blocks (amino acids) properly. The condition gets its name from the distinctive sweet odor of affected infants' urine. Beginning in early infancy, this condition is characterized by poor feeding, vomiting, lack of energy (lethargy), and developmental delay. If untreated, maple syrup urine disease can lead to seizures, coma, and death.

Maple syrup urine disease is often classified by its pattern of signs and symptoms. The most common and severe form of the disease is the classic type, which becomes apparent soon after birth. Variant forms of the disorder become apparent later in infancy or childhood and are typically milder, but they still involve developmental delay and other medical problems if not treated.