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J Inherit Metab Dis. 2001 Apr;24(2):139-50.

Applications of mass spectrometry in the study of inborn errors of metabolism.

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Biochemistry, Endocrinology and Metabolism Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.


During the twentieth century, and particularly in its last decade, there have been major advances in mass spectrometry (MS). As a result, MS remains one of the most powerful tools for the investigation of genetic metabolic disease. Analysis of organic acids by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and analysis of acylcarnitines by tandem mass spectrometry are still leading to the discovery of new disorders. Tandem mass spectrometry is increasingly being used for neonatal screening. New methods for lipid analysis have opened up the fields of inborn errors of cholesterol synthesis, of bile acid synthesis and ofleukotriene synthesis. The latest developments in MS allow it to be used for determination of the amino acid sequence and posttranslational modifications of proteins. There are still some major hurdles to be overcome, but soon it should be possible to detect mutant proteins directly rather than by cDNA or genomic DNA analysis. Measurement of which proteins are overexpressed and underexpressed ('proteomics') should provide further information on the pathogenesis of complications of inborn errors, e.g. hepatic cirrhosis. The use of stable isotopes in conjunction with MS allows us to probe metabolic pathways. As an example, evidence is presented to support the contention that vitamin E and its oxidation product are catabolized by peroxisomal beta-oxidation. Mass spectrometry also has a major role in monitoring new forms of treatment for inborn errors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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