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. 2018 Aug;124(4):223-229.
doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2018.06.002. Epub 2018 Jun 9.

Phenylalanine Ammonia Lyase (PAL): From Discovery to Enzyme Substitution Therapy for Phenylketonuria


Phenylalanine Ammonia Lyase (PAL): From Discovery to Enzyme Substitution Therapy for Phenylketonuria

Harvey L Levy et al. Mol Genet Metab. .


Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a genetic inborn error in metabolism that impacts many people globally, with profound individual and societal consequences when left untreated. The journey of phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) from plant enzyme to enzyme substitution therapy for PKU is a fascinating story that illustrates the importance of collaboration between basic scientists and industry in the drug development process. The story begins with the curiosity of plant physiologists about the origin of lignin, a polymer involved in maintaining the rigidity of plants. They learned that the critical element in this synthesis was an intermediary enzyme that deaminates phenylalanine to cinnamic acid and ammonia (later called phenylalanine ammonia lyase or PAL). Recognition of this ability to metabolize phenylalanine led to subsequent consideration of PAL as a treatment for PKU. This was initially attempted as enteral therapy with extracted enzyme, but that showed only minimal efficacy. Crucially, further development of PAL as a therapy for PKU required quantities of enzyme that could only be obtained after successfully cloning the gene, expressing the enzyme in vitro and modifying the protein via PEGylation to enable parenteral administration of this non-mammalian enzyme. Ultimately, PEGylated PAL was developed as an enzyme substitution therapy for PKU now approved under the name "Palynziq." The multidisciplinary academic-industrial partnership engaged throughout this process has been key to the successful pursuit of this therapeutic possibility and serves as a model for the development of future innovative therapies.

Keywords: Enzyme substitution therapy; PAL; PKU; Phenylalanine; Phenylalanine ammonia lyase; Phenylalanine hydroxylase; Phenylketonuria.

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