The AGA gene is mutated in patients with aspartylglucosaminuria (AGU), a lysosomal storage disease enriched in the Finnish population. The disease mechanism of AGU and the biochemistry and cell biology of the lysosomal aspartylglucosaminidase (AGA) enzyme are well characterized. Here, we have investigated a novel AGU mutation found in a Finnish patient. The mutation was detected as a compound heterozygote with the Finnish major mutation in the other allele. The novel point mutation, c.44T>G, causes the L15R amino acid substitution in the signal sequence of the AGA enzyme. The mutated AGA enzyme was here analyzed by over expression in BHK and COS-1 cells. The L15R AGA protein was only faintly detectable by immunofluorescence analysis and observed in the endoplasmic reticulum. Metabolic labeling and immunoprecipitation revealed only a small amount of AGA polypeptides but the specific activity of the mutant enzyme was surprisingly high, 37% of the wild type. The amino acid substitution probably affects translocation of AGA polypeptides by altering a critical hydrophobic core structure of the signal sequence. It appears that the small amounts of active enzyme are not able to reach the lysosomes thus explaining the development of AGU disease in the patient.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.