Genetic variants of alpha1-antitrypsin

Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2010 Mar;11(2):101-17. doi: 10.2174/138920310790848368.


Alpha1-antitrypsin (alpha1-AT) is a 52 kDa sialoglycoprotein. The function of alpha1-antitrypsin is to protect the lower respiratory tract of lungs from proteolytic degradation by neutrophil elastase. Severe genetic deficiency of alpha1-AT is associated with early onset emphysema and liver diseases. alpha1-AT also exhibits anti-inflammatory activities independent of its protease inhibitor function. There are over 90 genetic variants of human alpha1-antitrypsin. These variants occur due to amino acid substitution / deletion which results in charge differences. Based on charge differences these variants have been identified by isoelectric focusing. The two most common deficiency variants are S and Z. The S variant migrates anodal to Z variant. The Z variant migrates most cathodal in isoelectric focusing, hence named Z. In Z variant, the beta-sheet A undergoes expansion, therefore it can easily accept the reactive site loop of a second alpha1-AT molecule and consequently form polymers of alpha1-AT. These polymers of alpha1-AT aggregate in the hepatocytes and show liver and lungs diseases. Contrary to this, the S variant of alpha1-AT is not associated with any significant clinical disease because the conformation of the inhibitor is not altered significantly. The Z related pathologies could be treated by liver transplantation, augmentation therapy, gene therapy, peptide therapy and chemical chaperone therapy. In addition to common deficiency variants, there are several rare deficiency variants of alpha1-AT like Siiyama, Mmalton, Mprocida, Mheerlen, Mmineral springs, Mnichinan, Pduarte, Wbethesda Zaugsberg, and Zbristol. In Siiyama, Mmalton, Mnichinan and Zaugsberg, the beta-sheet A is present in an open state therefore these variants readily undergo polymerization and consequently show aggregation in the hepatocytes. In Mprocida, Mheerlen, Mmineral springs, Pduarte and Wbethesda the conformation is altered significantly therefore these variants become conformationally less stable and thereby undergo intracellular proteolysis. These rare genetic variants show lungs and / or liver disease. There are several null variants of alpha1-AT that are not detected either at the stage of transcription or translation. The examples of some of the null variants are QOcardiff, QOhong kong, QOgranite falls, QObellingham, QOmattawa, QObolton, and QOludwigshafen. The molecular basis of deficiency of these variants also forms the theme of this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / genetics*
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / metabolism
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency / genetics


  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin