Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Case Rep. 2010 Nov 12;4:361. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-4-361.

Female heterozygotes for the hypomorphic R40H mutation can have ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and present in early adolescence: a case report and review of the literature.

Author information

  • 1Department of Molecular and Clinical Genetics, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney Australia.



Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency is the most common hereditary urea cycle defect. It is inherited in an X-linked manner and classically presents in neonates with encephalopathy and hyperammonemia in males. Females and males with hypomorphic mutations present later, sometimes in adulthood, with episodes that are frequently fatal.


A 13-year-old Caucasian girl presented with progressive encephalopathy, hyperammonemic coma and lactic acidosis. She had a history of intermittent regular episodes of nausea and vomiting from seven years of age, previously diagnosed as abdominal migraines. At presentation she was hyperammonemic (ammonia 477 μmol/L) with no other biochemical indicators of hepatic dysfunction or damage and had grossly elevated urinary orotate (orotate/creatinine ratio 1.866 μmol/mmol creatinine, reference range <500 μmol/mmol creatinine) highly suggestive of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency. She was treated with intravenous sodium benzoate and arginine and made a rapid full recovery. She was discharged on a protein-restricted diet. She has not required ongoing treatment with arginine, and baseline ammonia and serum amino acid concentrations are within normal ranges. She has had one further episode of hyperammonemia associated with intercurrent infection after one year of follow up. An R40H (c.119G>A) mutation was identified in the ornithine transcarbamylase gene (OTC) in our patient confirming the first symptomatic female shown heterozygous for the R40H mutation. A review of the literature and correspondence with authors of patients with the R40H mutation identified one other symptomatic female patient who died of hyperammonemic coma in her late teens.


This report expands the clinical spectrum of presentation of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency to female heterozygotes for the hypomorphic R40H OTC mutation. Although this mutation is usually associated with a mild phenotype, females with this mutation can present with acute decompensation, which can be fatal. Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency should be considered in the differential diagnosis of unexplained acute confusion, even without a suggestive family history.

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk