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J Inherit Metab Dis. 2013 Jan;36(1):1-6. doi: 10.1007/s10545-012-9520-z. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Relationship between enzyme properties and disease progression in Canavan disease.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Inherit Metab Dis. 2013 Jan;36(1):159-60.


Canavan disease (CD) is a fatal neurological disorder caused by defects in the gene that encodes for a critical metabolic enzyme. The enzyme aspartoacylase catalyzes the deacetylation of N-acetylaspartate to produce acetate required for fatty acid biosynthesis in the brain. The loss of aspartoacylase activity leads to the demyelination and disrupted brain development that is found in CD patients. Sixteen different clinical mutants of aspartoacylase have been cloned, expressed and purified to examine their properties and the relationship between enzyme properties and disease phenotype. In contrast to numerous cell culture studies that reported virtually complete loss of function, each of these purified mutant enzymes was found to have measureable catalytic activity. However, the activities of these mutants are diminished, by as little as three-fold to greater than 100-fold when compared to the native enzyme. Many of these mutated enzyme forms show decreased thermal stability and an increased propensity for denaturation upon exposure to urea, but only four of the 16 mutants examined showed both diminished thermal and diminished conformational stability. Significantly, each of these lower stability mutants are responsible for the more severe phenotypes of CD, while patients with milder forms of CD have aspartoacylase mutants with generally high catalytic activity and with either good thermal or good conformational stability. These results suggest that the loss of catalytic function and the accumulation of N-acetylaspartate in Canavan disease is at least partially a consequence of the decreased protein stability caused by these mutations.

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