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Glutathione synthetase deficiency
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Reviewed December 2006
What is glutathione synthetase deficiency?
Glutathione synthetase deficiency is a disorder that prevents the production of an important molecule called glutathione. Glutathione helps prevent damage to cells by neutralizing harmful molecules generated during energy production. Glutathione also plays a role in processing medications and cancer-causing compounds (carcinogens), and building DNA, proteins, and other important cellular components.
Glutathione synthetase deficiency can be classified into three types: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild glutathione synthetase deficiency usually results in the destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia). Rarely, affected people also excrete large amounts of a compound called 5-oxoproline in their urine (5-oxoprolinuria). This compound builds up when glutathione is not processed correctly in cells.
Individuals with moderate glutathione synthetase deficiency may experience symptoms beginning shortly after birth including hemolytic anemia, 5-oxoprolinuria, and elevated acidity in the blood and tissues (metabolic acidosis).
In addition to the features present in moderate glutathione synthetase deficiency, individuals affected by the severe form of this disorder may experience neurological symptoms. These problems may include seizures; a generalized slowing down of physical reactions, movements, and speech (psychomotor retardation); intellectual disability; and a loss of coordination (ataxia). Some people with severe glutathione synthetase deficiency also develop recurrent bacterial infections.
How common is glutathione synthetase deficiency?
Glutathione synthetase deficiency is very rare. This disorder has been described in about 70 people worldwide.
What genes are related to glutathione synthetase deficiency?
Mutations in the GSS gene cause glutathione synthetase deficiency.
The GSS gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called glutathione synthetase. This enzyme is involved in a process called the gamma-glutamyl cycle, which takes place in most of the body's cells. This cycle is necessary for producing a molecule called glutathione. Glutathione protects cells from damage caused by unstable oxygen-containing molecules, which are byproducts of energy production. Glutathione is called an antioxidant because of its role in protecting cells from the damaging effects of these unstable molecules. Mutations in the GSS gene prevent cells from making adequate levels of glutathione, leading to the signs and symptoms of glutathione synthetase deficiency.
Read more about the GSS gene.
How do people inherit glutathione synthetase deficiency?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of glutathione synthetase deficiency?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of glutathione synthetase deficiency and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about glutathione synthetase deficiency?
You may find the following resources about glutathione synthetase deficiency helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for glutathione synthetase deficiency?
What if I still have specific questions about glutathione synthetase deficiency?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding glutathione synthetase deficiency?
acidity ; acidosis ; aciduria ; anemia ; ataxia ; autosomal ; autosomal recessive ; cancer ; cell ; compound ; deficiency ; DNA ; enzyme ; excrete ; gene ; glutathione ; hemolytic anemia ; molecule ; neurological ; newborn screening ; oxygen ; psychomotor ; recessive ; screening
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (5 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.