Norepinephrine (NE), a key neurotransmitter of the central and peripheral nervous systems, is synthesized by dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) that catalyzes oxidation of dopamine (DA) to NE. NE deficiency is a congenital disorder of unknown etiology, in which affected patients suffer profound autonomic failure. Biochemical features of the syndrome include undetectable tissue and circulating levels of NE and epinephrine, elevated levels of DA, and undetectable levels of DBH. Here, we report identification of seven novel variants including four potentially pathogenic mutations in the human DBH gene (OMIM 223360) from analysis of two unrelated patients and their families. Both patients are compound heterozygotes for variants affecting expression of DBH protein. Each carries one copy of a T-->C transversion in the splice donor site of DBH intron 1, creating a premature stop codon. In patient 1, there is a missense mutation in DBH exon 2. Patient 2 carries missense mutations in exons 1 and 6 residing in cis. We propose that NE deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder resulting from heterogeneous molecular lesions at DBH.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.