Chronic liver disease and impaired hepatic glycogen metabolism in argininosuccinate lyase deficiency

JCI Insight. 2020 Feb 27;5(4):e132342. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.132342.


BACKGROUNDLiver disease in urea cycle disorders (UCDs) ranges from hepatomegaly and chronic hepatocellular injury to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. However, the prevalence and underlying mechanisms are unclear.METHODSWe estimated the prevalence of chronic hepatocellular injury in UCDs using data from a multicenter, longitudinal, natural history study. We also used ultrasound with shear wave elastography and FibroTest to evaluate liver stiffness and markers of fibrosis in individuals with argininosuccinate lyase deficiency (ASLD), a disorder with high prevalence of elevated serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT). To understand the human observations, we evaluated the hepatic phenotype of the AslNeo/Neo mouse model of ASLD.RESULTSWe demonstrate a high prevalence of elevated ALT in ASLD (37%). Hyperammonemia and use of nitrogen-scavenging agents, 2 markers of disease severity, were significantly (P < 0.001 and P = 0.001, respectively) associated with elevated ALT in ASLD. In addition, ultrasound with shear wave elastography and FibroTest revealed increased echogenicity and liver stiffness, even in individuals with ASLD and normal aminotransferases. The AslNeo/Neo mice mimic the human disorder with hepatomegaly, elevated aminotransferases, and excessive hepatic glycogen noted before death (3-5 weeks of age). This excessive hepatic glycogen is associated with impaired hepatic glycogenolysis and decreased glycogen phosphorylase and is rescued with helper-dependent adenovirus expressing Asl using a liver-specific (ApoE) promoter.CONCLUSIONOur results link urea cycle dysfunction and impaired hepatic glucose metabolism and identify a mouse model of liver disease in the setting of urea cycle dysfunction.TRIAL REGISTRATIONThis study has been registered at (NCT03721367, NCT00237315).FUNDINGFunding was provided by NIH, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, NUCDF, Genzyme/ACMG Foundation, and CPRIT.

Keywords: Amino acid metabolism; Glucose metabolism; Hepatology; Metabolism; Mouse models.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Animals
  • Argininosuccinate Lyase / metabolism*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Liver Diseases / enzymology
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism*
  • Liver Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mice
  • Urea Cycle Disorders, Inborn / complications


  • Liver Glycogen
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Argininosuccinate Lyase

Associated data