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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 Oct 8;1455(2-3):105-38.

Biochemical consequences of mutations causing the GM2 gangliosidoses.

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  • 1Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ont, Canada.


The hydrolysis of GM2-ganglioside is unusual in its requirements for the correct synthesis, processing, and ultimate combination of three gene products. Whereas two of these proteins are the alpha- (HEXA gene) and beta- (HEXB) subunits of beta-hexosaminidase A, the third is a small glycolipid transport protein, the GM2 activator protein (GM2A), which acts as a substrate specific co-factor for the enzyme. A deficiency of any one of these proteins leads to storage of the ganglioside, primarily in the lysosomes of neuronal cells, and one of the three forms of GM2-gangliosidosis, Tay-Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease or the AB-variant form. Studies of the biochemical impact of naturally occurring mutations associated with the GM2 gangliosidoses on mRNA splicing and stability, and on the intracellular transport and stability of the affected protein have provided some general insights into these complex cellular mechanisms. However, such studies have revealed little in the way of structure-function information on the proteins. It appears that the detrimental effect of most mutations is not specifically on functional elements of the protein, but rather on the proteins' overall folding and/or intracellular transport. The few exceptions to this generalization are missense mutations at two codons in HEXA, causing the unique biochemical phenotype known as the B1-variant, and one codon in both the HEXB and GM2A genes. Biochemical characterization of these mutations has led to the localization of functional residues and/or domains within each of the encoded proteins.

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