Liver disease caused by failure to racemize trihydroxycholestanoic acid: gene mutation and effect of bile acid therapy.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Inborn errors of bile acid metabolism may present as neonatal cholestasis and fat-soluble vitamin malabsorption or as late onset chronic liver disease. Our aim was to fully characterize a defect in bile acid synthesis in a 2-week-old African-American girl presenting with coagulopathy, vitamin D and E deficiencies, and mild cholestasis and in her sibling, whose liver had been used for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). METHODS: Bile acids were measured by mass spectrometry in urine, bile, serum, and feces of the patient and in urine from the unrelated recipient. RESULTS: Liver biopsy specimens showed neonatal hepatitis with giant cell transformation and hepatocyte necrosis; peroxisomes were reduced in number. High concentrations of (25R)3alpha,7alpha,12alpha-trihydroxy-5beta-cholestanoic acid in the urine, bile, and serum established a pattern similar to that of Zellweger syndrome and identical to the Alligator mississippiensis. Serum phytanic acid was normal, whereas pristanic acid was markedly elevated. Biochemical, MRI, and neurologic findings were inconsistent with a generalized defect of peroxisomal function and were unique. Analysis of the urine from the recipient of the deceased sibling's liver confirmed the same bile acid synthetic defect. A deficiency in 2-methylacyl-CoA racemase, which is essential for conversion of (25R)THCA to its 25S-isomer, the substrate to initiate peroxisomal beta-oxidation to primary bile acids, was confirmed by DNA analysis revealing a missense mutation (S52P) in the gene encoding this enzyme. Long-term treatment with cholic acid normalized liver enzymes and prevented progression of symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: This genetic defect further highlights bile acid synthetic defects as a cause of neonatal cholestasis.