A 3-year randomized therapeutic trial of nitisinone in alkaptonuria

Mol Genet Metab. 2011 Aug;103(4):307-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2011.04.016. Epub 2011 May 6.


Alkaptonuria is a rare, autosomal recessive disorder of tyrosine degradation due to deficiency of the third enzyme in the catabolic pathway. As a result, homogentisic acid (HGA) accumulates and is excreted in gram quantities in the urine, which turns dark upon alkalization. The first symptoms, occurring in early adulthood, involve a painful, progressively debilitating arthritis of the spine and large joints. Cardiac valvular disease and renal and prostate stones occur later. Previously suggested therapies have failed to show benefit, and management remains symptomatic. Nitisinone, a potent inhibitor of the second enzyme in the tyrosine catabolic pathway, is considered a potential therapy; proof-of-principle studies showed 95% reduction in urinary HGA. Based on those findings, a prospective, randomized clinical trial was initiated in 2005 to evaluate 40 patients over a 36-month period. The primary outcome parameter was hip total range of motion with measures of musculoskeletal function serving as secondary parameters. Biochemically, this study consistently demonstrated 95% reduction of HGA in urine and plasma over the course of 3 years. Clinically, primary and secondary parameters did not prove benefit from the medication. Side effects were infrequent. This trial illustrates the remarkable tolerability of nitisinone, its biochemical efficacy, and the need to investigate its use in younger individuals prior to development of debilitating arthritis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Adult
  • Alkaptonuria / blood
  • Alkaptonuria / drug therapy*
  • Alkaptonuria / urine
  • Cyclohexanones / therapeutic use*
  • Homogentisic Acid / blood
  • Homogentisic Acid / urine
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrobenzoates / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Cyclohexanones
  • Nitrobenzoates
  • Tyrosine
  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase
  • nitisinone
  • Homogentisic Acid