Clinical and biochemical characteristics of patients with ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency

Clin Biochem. 2020 Oct;84:63-72. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2020.06.011. Epub 2020 Jun 19.


Background: Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTCD) is pleomorphic congenital hyperammonemia, in which the prognosis of the patient is determined both by genotype and environmental factors. This study investigated the clinical and biochemical characteristics of OTCD patients with different prognosis.

Method: Of 35 OTCD patients, six males deceased at the first disease-onset, 17 males survived and had controllable ammonia levels after treatment, and 12 females survived through the first disease-onset but had intractable hyperammonemia and high mortality. Fasting blood samples from patients collected at three disease stages were used for the analysis of amino acid (AA) profile, acylcarnitine profile, and micronutrients. Differences in profiles between patients and healthy controls and within patient groups were studied.

Results: All OTCD patients had accumulation of glutamine, homocitrulline, lysine, glutamate, cystathionine, and pipecolic acid, as well as deficiency of citrulline, tryptophan, threonine, and carnitine. For male non-survivors, most other AAs and long-chain acylcarnitines were elevated at disease onset, of which the levels of creatine, N-acetylaspartic acid, and homoarginine were remarkably high. Male survivors and female patients had most other AAs at low to normal levels. Compared with male survivors, female patients had much lower protein-intolerance, as indicated by significantly lower levels of protein consumption indicators, including essential AAs, 1-methylhistidine, acylcarnitines et al., but high levels of ammonia. Female patients still had significantly higher levels of citrulline, homocitrulline, and citrulline/arginine compared to male survivors.

Conclusion: Unique profiles were observed in each group of OTCD patients, indicating specific physiological changes that happened to them.

Keywords: Acylcarnitine; Amino acid; Choline; Hyperammonemia; N-acetylaspartic acid; Urea cycle disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ammonia / blood
  • Arginine / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperammonemia / physiopathology
  • Lysine / blood
  • Male
  • Ornithine / therapeutic use
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease / blood
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease / metabolism*
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease / physiopathology*
  • Urea / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Ammonia
  • Urea
  • Arginine
  • Ornithine
  • Lysine
  • Creatine