Background and aims: Severe hypercholesterolemia associated or not with xanthomas in a child may suggest the diagnosis of homozygous autosomal dominant hypercholesterolemia (ADH), autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia (ARH) or sitosterolemia, depending on the transmission of hypercholesterolemia in the patient's family. Sitosterolemia is a recessive disorder characterized by high plasma levels of cholesterol and plant sterols due to mutations in the ABCG5 or the ABCG8 gene, leading to a loss of function of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) heterodimer transporter G5-G8.
Methods: We aimed to perform the molecular characterization of two children with severe primary hypercholesterolemia.
Results: Case #1 was a 2 year-old girl with high LDL-cholesterol (690 mg/dl) and tuberous and intertriginous xanthomas. Case #2 was a 7 year-old boy with elevated LDL-C (432 mg/dl) but no xanthomas. In both cases, at least one parent had elevated LDL-cholesterol levels. For the molecular diagnosis, we applied targeted next generation sequencing (NGS), which unexpectedly revealed that both patients were compound heterozygous for nonsense mutations: Case #1 in ABCG5 gene [p.(Gln251*)/p.(Arg446*)] and Case #2 in ABCG8 gene [p.(Ser107*)/p.(Trp361*)]. Both children had extremely high serum sitosterol and campesterol levels, thus confirming the diagnosis of sisterolemia. A low-fat/low-sterol diet was promptly adopted with and without the addition of ezetimibe for Case #1 and Case #2, respectively. In both patients, serum total and LDL-cholesterol decreased dramatically in two months and progressively normalized.
Conclusions: Targeted NGS allows the rapid diagnosis of sitosterolemia in children with severe hypercholesterolemia, even though their family history does not unequivocally suggest a recessive transmission of hypercholesterolemia. A timely diagnosis is crucial to avoid delays in treatment.
Keywords: ABCG5 gene; ABCG8 gene; Hypercholesterolemia; Next generation sequencing; Plasma phytosterols.
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