Free sialic acid storage disorders, Salla disease (SD) and Infantile sialic acid storage disease (ISSD), are lysosomal storage diseases due to impaired function of a sialic acid transporter, sialin, at the lysosomal membrane. Several mutations of the sialin gene, SLC17A5, are known, leading either to the severe neonatal/infantile disease or to the milder, adult-type developmental disorder, Salla disease. Free sialic acid accumulation in lysosomes causes increased tissue concentration and consequently elevated urinary excretion.
Prenatal diagnosis of SASD is possible either by determination of free sialic acid concentration or by mutation analysis of the SLC17A5 gene in fetal specimen, in chorionic villus biopsy particularly. Both techniques have been successfully applied in several cases, sialic acid assay more often in ISSD cases but mutation analysis preferentially in SD. Sialic acid assay of amniotic fluid supernatant or cultured amniotic fluid cells may give erroneous results and should not be used for prenatal diagnosis of these disorders.
The present comments are mainly based on our experience of prenatal diagnosis of SD in Finnish families. A founder mutation in SLC17A5 gene, 115C->T, represents 95% of the disease alleles in the Finnish SD patients, which provides a unique possibility to apply mutation analysis. Therefore, molecular studies have successfully been used in 17 families since the identification of the gene and the characterization of the SD mutations. Earlier, eight prenatal studies were performed by measuring the free sialic acid concentration in chorionic villus samples.