Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency: wolman disease and cholesteryl ester storage disease

Pril (Makedon Akad Nauk Umet Odd Med Nauki). 2014;35(1):99-106.


Cholesteryl ester storage disease (CESD, OMIM #278000) and Wolman disease (OMIM #278000) are autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disorders caused by a deficient activity of lysosomal acid lipase (cholesteryl ester hydrolase, LAL). Human lysosomal acid lipase is essential for the metabolism of cholesteryl esters and triglycerides. In Wolman disease, LAL activity is usually absent, whereas CESD usually presents some residual LAL activity. In infants, poor weight gain, massive hepatosplenomegaly, calcified adrenal glands (present about 2/3 of the time), vomiting, diarrhea and failure to thrive are indicative of Wolman disease. The clinical picture is more variable in CESD. Hepatomegaly and/or elevation of liver transaminases are almost always present. Hepatic steatosis often leads to fibrosis and cirrhosis. Other signs often include splenomegaly, high total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL-cholesterol. The diagnosis of LAL deficiency requires clinical experience and specialized laboratory tests. The diagnosis is based on finding deficient activity of acid lipase and/or molecular tests. Pilot screening projects using dried blood spot testing in 1) children with atypical fatty liver disease in the absence of overweight, 2) patients with dyslipidaemia and presence of hepatomegaly and/or elevated transaminases, 3) newborns/neonates with hepatomegaly and abdominal distension/failure to thrive/elevated transaminases are currently underway. Early diagnosis is particularly important for the enzyme replacement therapy. Human trials with recombinant LAL are currently ongoing, raising the prospect for specific correction of LAL deficiency in this progressive and often debilitating disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol Ester Storage Disease / etiology*
  • Cholesterol Ester Storage Disease / metabolism
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipase / metabolism*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Wolman Disease / complications
  • Wolman Disease / etiology*
  • Wolman Disease / metabolism


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Lipase

Supplementary concepts

  • Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency