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Pediatr Res. 1996 Jun;39(6):1067-71.

Cathepsin A deficiency in galactosialidosis: studies of patients and carriers in 16 families.

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Department of Clinical Genetics, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Deficiency of lysosomal protective protein/cathepsin A in humans is the primary cause of galactosialidosis, a lysosomal storage disease characterized by combined deficiency of beta-galactosidase and neuraminidase. We have investigated 20 galactosialidosis patients and nine of their obligate heterozygous parents. A group of 12 patients with the early infantile type of the disease exhibited practically complete absence of cathepsin A activity, whereas eight patients with either the late infantile or the juvenile/adult type had 2-5% residual activity. Highest levels (5%) were present in two patients with milder clinical manifestations and later onset of the disease. In most fibroblast strains, beta-galactosidase activity was 10-15% of normal levels, whereas neuraminidase was reduced to less than 4%. Interestingly, a substantial residual activity (10%) of the latter enzyme was detected in the patient with the mildest phenotype and the highest cathepsin A activity. Heterozygous values for cathepsin A were reduced on average to half of normal levels. However, in two cell strains, the activity was far below control range, and in these cases, neuraminidase activity was severely depressed. Finally, we showed that cathepsin A had considerable activity in chorionic villi and amniocytes, but was deficient in amniocytes from a pregnancy with an affected fetus, indicating the relevance of cathepsin A assay for prenatal diagnosis of galactosialidosis.

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