Disorders of phospholipids, sphingolipids and fatty acids biosynthesis: toward a new category of inherited metabolic diseases

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2013 May;36(3):411-25. doi: 10.1007/s10545-012-9509-7. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


We wish to delineate a novel, and rapidly expanding, group of inborn errors of metabolism with neurological/muscular presentations: the defects in phospholipids, sphingolipids and long chain fatty acids biosynthesis. At least 14 disorders have been described so far. Clinical presentations are diverse but can be divided into (1) diseases of the central nervous system; (2) peripheral neuropathies; and (3) muscular/cardiac presentations. (1) Leukodystrophy and/or iron deposits in basal ganglia is a common feature of phospholipase A2 deficiency, fatty acid hydroxylase deficiency, and pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration. Infantile epilepsy has been reported in GM3 synthetase deficiency. Spastic quadriplegia with ichthyosis and intellectual disability are the presenting signs of the elongase 4 deficiency and the Sjogren-Larsson syndrome caused by fatty aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. Spastic paraplegia and muscle wasting are also seen in patients with mutations in the neuropathy target esterase gene. (2) Peripheral neuropathy is a prominent feature in PHARC syndrome due to α/β-hydrolase 12 deficiency, and in hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy type I due to serine palmitoyl-CoA transferase deficiency. (3) Muscular/cardiac presentations include recurrent myoglobinuria in phosphatidate phosphatase 1 (Lipin1) deficiency; cardiomyopathy and multivisceral involvement in Barth syndrome secondary to tafazzin mutations; congenital muscular dystrophy due to choline kinase deficiency, Sengers syndrome due to acylglycerol kinase deficiency and Chanarin Dorfman syndrome due to α/β- hydrolase 5 deficiency. These synthesis defects of complex lipid molecules stand at the frontier between classical inborn errors of metabolism and other genetic diseases involving the metabolism of structural proteins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / classification*
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / diagnosis
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / classification
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Phospholipids / biosynthesis*
  • Phospholipids / deficiency
  • Sphingolipids / biosynthesis*
  • Sphingolipids / deficiency


  • Fatty Acids
  • Phospholipids
  • Sphingolipids