Mechanisms producing the divergent phenotypes, Wolman disease (WD) and cholesterol ester storage disease (CESD), associated with the genetic deficiency of human lysosomal acid lipase/cholesterol ester hydrolase (hLAL) function were investigated with the determination of HLAL activity levels, mRNA and protein expression, and defects in structural gene sequences in cells from three WD and five CESD patients. Measured with natural substrates, HLAL activities were all below 2% of normal, regardless of phenotype. Immunoblotting showed a lack of detectable hLAL protein in all mutant fibroblasts. Four CESD, but no WD genomes contained at least one allele with a specific exon 8 splice junction mutation, c.894 G>A, that encodes a shortened form of hLAL mRNA. Other CESD mutations were identical in type to the WD defects: nucleotide deletions (positions 397, 684, 980), insertions (594), or substitutions (193, 347) that result in premature terminations precluding any function. The only exception was a substitution at nucleotide 866 in the CESD case without an exon 8 splicing mutation; expression of the predicted S289C change in a transfection assay produced a low, but clearly measurable, level of acid esterase activity. Although it is not easily demonstrated in conventional assays, CESD is distinct from WD in that at least one mutant allele has the potential to produce enough residual enzymatic function to ameliorate the phenotype; in the majority of CESD cases this may come from a single, easily detected, splicing mutation in one allele.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.