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Blood. 2003 Nov 15;102(10):3556-61. Epub 2003 Jul 31.

Defective RNA ribose synthesis in fibroblasts from patients with thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia (TRMA).

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  • 1Stable Isotope Research Laboratory, Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Research and Education Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, 1124 West Carson St, RB1, Torrance, CA 90502, USA.


Fibroblasts from patients with thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anemia (TRMA) syndrome with diabetes and deafness undergo apoptotic cell death in the absence of supplemental thiamine in their cultures. The basis of megaloblastosis in these patients has not been determined. Here we use the stable [1,2-13C2]glucose isotope-based dynamic metabolic profiling technique to demonstrate that defective high-affinity thiamine transport primarily affects the synthesis of nucleic acid ribose via the nonoxidative branch of the pentose cycle. RNA ribose isolated from TRMA fibroblasts in thiamine-depleted cultures shows a time-dependent decrease in the fraction of ribose derived via transketolase, a thiamine-dependent enzyme in the pentose cycle. The fractional rate of de novo ribose synthesis from glucose is decreased several fold 2 to 4 days after removal of thiamine from the culture medium. No such metabolic changes are observed in wild-type fibroblasts or in TRMA mutant cells in thiamine-containing medium. Fluxes through glycolysis are similar in TRMA versus control fibroblasts in the pentose and TCA cycles. We conclude that reduced nucleic acid production through impaired transketolase catalysis is the underlying biochemical disturbance that likely induces cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in bone marrow cells and leads to the TRMA syndrome in patients with defective high-affinity thiamine transport.

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