Amino acid synthesis deficiencies

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2017 Jul;40(4):609-620. doi: 10.1007/s10545-017-0063-1. Epub 2017 Jun 26.


In recent years the number of disorders known to affect amino acid synthesis has grown rapidly. Nor is it just the number of disorders that has increased: the associated clinical phenotypes have also expanded spectacularly, primarily due to the advances of next generation sequencing diagnostics. In contrast to the "classical" inborn errors of metabolism in catabolic pathways, in which elevated levels of metabolites are easily detected in body fluids, synthesis defects present with low values of metabolites or, confusingly, even completely normal levels of amino acids. This makes the biochemical diagnosis of this relatively new group of metabolic diseases challenging. Defects in the synthesis pathways of serine metabolism, glutamine, proline and, recently, asparagine have all been reported. Although these amino acid synthesis defects are in unrelated metabolic pathways, they do share many clinical features. In children the central nervous system is primarily affected, giving rise to (congenital) microcephaly, early onset seizures and varying degrees of mental disability. The brain abnormalities are accompanied by skin disorders such as cutis laxa in defects of proline synthesis, collodion-like skin and ichthyosis in serine deficiency, and necrolytic erythema in glutamine deficiency. Hypomyelination with accompanying loss of brain volume and gyration defects can be observed on brain MRI in all synthesis disorders. In adults with defects in serine or proline synthesis, spastic paraplegia and several forms of polyneuropathy with or without intellectual disability appear to be the major symptoms in these late-presenting forms of amino acid disorders. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the disorders in amino acid synthesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics
  • Amino Acid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / diagnosis*
  • Amino Acid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics*
  • Amino Acids / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acids / deficiency*
  • Animals
  • Asparagine / deficiency
  • Brain Diseases / genetics
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / genetics
  • Glutamine / deficiency
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Ichthyosis / genetics
  • Limb Deformities, Congenital / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Mice
  • Microcephaly / genetics
  • Proline / deficiency
  • Serine / deficiency


  • Amino Acids
  • Glutamine
  • Serine
  • Asparagine
  • Proline

Supplementary concepts

  • Neu Laxova syndrome