Tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH; EC 220.127.116.11) catalyzes the first rate-limiting step of serotonin biosynthesis by converting l-tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan. Serotonin controls multiple vegetative functions and modulates sensory and alpha-motor neurons at the spinal level. We report on five boys with floppiness in infancy followed by motor delay, development of a hypotonic-ataxic syndrome, learning disability, and short attention span. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis showed a 51 to 65% reduction of the serotonin end-metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA) compared to age-matched median values. In one out of five patients a low CSF 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF) was present probably due to the common C677T heterozygous mutation of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene. Baseline 24-h urinary excretion showed diminished 5HIAA values, not changing after a single oral load with l-tryptophan (50-70 mg/kg), but normalizing after 5-hydroxytryptophan administration (1 mg/kg). Treatment with 5-hydroxytryptophan (4-6 mg/kg) and carbidopa (0.5-1.0 mg/kg) resulted in clinical amelioration and normalization of 5HIAA levels in CSF and urine. In the patient with additional MTHFR heterozygosity, a heterozygous missense mutation within exon 6 (G529A) of the TPH gene caused an exchange of valine by isoleucine at codon 177 (V177I). This has been interpreted as a rare DNA variant because the pedigree analysis did not provide any genotype-phenotype correlation. In the other four patients the TPH gene analysis was normal. In conclusion, this new neurodevelopmental syndrome responsive to treatment with 5-hydroxytryptophan and carbidopa might result from an overall reduced capacity of serotonin production due to a TPH gene regulatory defect, unknown factors inactivating the TPH enzyme, or selective loss of serotonergic neurons.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.