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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1993 Sep 8;1182(2):142-6.

Molecular basis of an adult form of Sandhoff disease: substitution of glutamine for arginine at position 505 of the beta-chain of beta-hexosaminidase results in a labile enzyme.

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  • 1Academic Medical Center, Department of Neurology, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Sandhoff disease is a lysosomal storage disorder characterized by accumulation of GM2 ganglioside due to mutations in the beta-chain of beta-hexosaminidase. Hexosaminidase activity is negligible in infantile Sandhoff disease whereas residual activity is present in juvenile and adult forms. Here we report the molecular basis of the first described adult form of Sandhoff disease. Southern analysis of chromosomal DNA indicated the absence of chromosomal deletions in the gene encoding the beta-chain. Northern analysis of RNA from cultured fibroblasts demonstrated that at least one of the beta-chain alleles was transcribed into normal-length mRNA. Sequence analysis of the entire cDNA prepared from poly-adenylated RNA showed that only one point mutation was present, consisting of a G-->A transition at nucleotide position 1514. This mutation changes the electric charge at amino acid position 505 by substitution of glutamine for arginine in a highly conserved part of the beta-chain, present even in the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. The nucleotide transition generated a new restriction site for DdeI, which was present in only one of the alleles of the patient. Reverse transcription of mRNA followed by restriction with DdeI resulted in complete digestion at the mutation site, demonstrating that the second allele was of an mRNA-negative type. Transfection of COS cells with a cDNA construct containing the mutation but otherwise the normal sequence resulted in the expression of a labile form of beta-hexosaminidase. These results show that the patient's is a genetic compound, and that the lability of beta-hexosaminidase found in this form of Sandhoff disease is based on a single nucleotide transition.

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