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Mapping the functional landscape of frequent phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) genotypes promotes personalised medicine in phenylketonuria
  1. Marta K Danecka1,
  2. Mathias Woidy1,
  3. Johannes Zschocke2,
  4. François Feillet3,
  5. Ania C Muntau4,
  6. Søren W Gersting1
  1. 1Department of Molecular Pediatrics, Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany
  2. 2Division of Human Genetics, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, Hôpital d'Enfants Brabois, CHU Nancy, Vandoeuvre les Nancy, France
  4. 4University Children's Hospital, University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ania C Muntau, University Children's Hospital, University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf, Martinistr. 52, Hamburg 20246, Germany; muntau{at}


Background In phenylketonuria, genetic heterogeneity, frequent compound heterozygosity, and the lack of functional data for phenylalanine hydroxylase genotypes hamper reliable phenotype prediction and individualised treatment.

Methods A literature search revealed 690 different phenylalanine hydroxylase genotypes in 3066 phenylketonuria patients from Europe and the Middle East. We determined phenylalanine hydroxylase function of 30 frequent homozygous and compound heterozygous genotypes covering 55% of the study population, generated activity landscapes, and assessed the phenylalanine hydroxylase working range in the metabolic (phenylalanine) and therapeutic (tetrahydrobiopterin) space.

Results Shared patterns in genotype-specific functional landscapes were linked to biochemical and pharmacological phenotypes, where (1) residual activity below 3.5% was associated with classical phenylketonuria unresponsive to pharmacological treatment; (2) lack of defined peak activity induced loss of response to tetrahydrobiopterin; (3) a higher cofactor need was linked to inconsistent clinical phenotypes and low rates of tetrahydrobiopterin response; and (4) residual activity above 5%, a defined peak of activity, and a normal cofactor need were associated with pharmacologically treatable mild phenotypes. In addition, we provide a web application for retrieving country-specific information on genotypes and genotype-specific phenylalanine hydroxylase function that warrants continuous extension, updates, and research on demand.

Conclusions The combination of genotype-specific functional analyses with biochemical, clinical, and therapeutic data of individual patients may serve as a powerful tool to enable phenotype prediction and to establish personalised medicine strategies for dietary regimens and pharmacological treatment in phenylketonuria.

  • Genotype-phenotype correlation
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Phenylalanine hydroxylase
  • Activity landscapes
  • Personalized medicine

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