The relation of cerebrospinal fluid and plasma glycine levels in propionic acidaemia, a ‘ketotic hyperglycinaemia’

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The characteristic elevation of plasma glycine concentrations observed in propionic acidaemia (PA) and other ‘ketotic hyperglycinaemias’ has been attributed to secondary inhibition of the hepatic glycine cleavage system (GCS) by accumulating CoA derivatives of branched-chain amino acid metabolites. In nonketotic hyperglycinaemia (NKH), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma glycine levels and their ratio are increased due to primary deficiency of central nervous system (CNS) as well as hepatic GCS. Whether the GCS in the CNS is also inhibited in PA is unclear, as there are scant data available on CSF glycine levels in this disorder. We studied the relation of CSF and plasma glycine levels in 6 paired samples from 4 PA patients, including one PA patient with bacterial meningitis who underwent ventriculoperitoneal shunting and multiple CSF analyses (n = 26). In contrast to the CSF glycine levels which were generally elevated in all four PA patients, the CSF/plasma glycine concentration ratios in paired samples were normal (0.016–0.029), with the exception of a single sample (0.132) with extremely high CSF protein concentration (2010 mg/L) during the course of meningitis indicating a disturbed blood-brain barrier. This finding of normal CSF/plasma glycine ratio in PA suggests that the observed elevations of CSF glycine levels are a reflection of the concurrent hyperglycinaemia resulting from secondary inhibition of hepatic GCS, but that brain GCS is not affected, in contrast to the situation in NKH. The neurological sequelae in PA are therefore unlikely to be related to disturbed glycine metabolism.

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