Presumptive brain influx of large neutral amino acids and the effect of phenylalanine supplementation in patients with Tyrosinemia type 1

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 26;12(9):e0185342. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185342. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Hereditary Tyrosinemia type 1 (HT1) is a rare metabolic disease caused by a defect in the tyrosine degradation pathway. Current treatment consists of 2-(2-nitro-4-trifluoromethylbenoyl)-1,3-cyclohexanedione (NTBC) and a tyrosine and phenylalanine restricted diet. Recently, neuropsychological deficits have been seen in HT1 patients. These deficits are possibly associated with low blood phenylalanine concentrations and/or high blood tyrosine concentrations. Therefore, the aim of the present study was threefold. Firstly, we aimed to calculate how the plasma amino acid profile in HT1 patients may influence the presumptive brain influx of all large neutral amino acids (LNAA). Secondly, we aimed to investigate the effect of phenylalanine supplementation on presumptive brain phenylalanine and tyrosine influx. Thirdly, we aimed to theoretically determine minimal target plasma phenylalanine concentrations in HT1 patient to ensure adequate presumptive brain phenylalanine influx.

Methods: Data of plasma LNAA concentrations were obtained. In total, 239 samples of 9 HT1 children, treated with NTBC, diet, and partly with phenylalanine supplementation were collected together with 596 samples of independent control children. Presumptive brain influx of all LNAA was calculated, using Michaelis-Menten parameters (Km) and Vmax-values obtained from earlier articles.

Results: In HT1 patients, plasma concentrations and presumptive brain influx of tyrosine were higher. However, plasma and especially brain influx of phenylalanine were lower in HT1 patients. Phenylalanine supplementation did not only tend to increase plasma phenylalanine concentrations, but also presumptive brain phenylalanine influx, despite increased plasma tyrosine concentrations. However, to ensure sufficient brain phenylalanine influx in HT1 patients, minimal plasma phenylalanine concentrations may need to be higher than considered thus far.

Conclusion: This study clearly suggests a role for disturbed brain LNAA biochemistry, which is not well reflected by plasma LNAA concentrations. This could play a role in the pathophysiology of the neuropsychological impairments in HT1 patients and may have therapeutic implications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amino Acids, Neutral / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Phenylalanine / administration & dosage*
  • Tyrosinemias / drug therapy*


  • Amino Acids, Neutral
  • Phenylalanine

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.