Phenylketonuria (PKU) (OMIM 261600) is the first Mendelian disease to have an identified chemical cause of impaired cognitive development. The disease is accompanied by hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) and elevated levels of phenylalanine metabolites (phenylacetate (PAA), phenyllactate (PLA), and phenylpyruvate (PPA)) in body fluids. Here we describe a method to determine the concentrations of PAA, PPA, and PLA in the brain of normal and mutant orthologous mice, the latter being models of human PKU and non-PKU HPA. Stable isotope dilution techniques are employed with the use of [(2)H(5)]-phenylacetic acid and [2,3, 3-(2)H(3)]-3-phenyllactic acid as internal standards. Negative ion chemical ionization (NICI)-GC/MS analyses are performed on the pentafluorobenzyl ester derivatives formed in situ in brain homogenates. Unstable PPA in the homogenate is reduced by NaB(2)H(4) to stable PLA, which is labeled with a single deuterium and discriminated from endogenous PLA in the mass spectrometer on that basis. The method demonstrates that these metabolites are easily measured in normal mouse brain and are elevated moderately in HPA mice and greatly in PKU mice. However, their concentrations are not sufficient in PKU to be "toxic"; phenylalanine itself remains the chemical candidate causing impaired cognitive development.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.