Metabolic basis and treatment of citrin deficiency

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2021 Jan;44(1):110-117. doi: 10.1002/jimd.12294. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Citrin deficiency is a hereditary disorder caused by SLC25A13 mutations and manifests as neonatal intrahepatic cholestasis (NICCD), failure to thrive and dyslipidemia (FTTDCD), and adult-onset type II citrullinemia (CTLN2). Citrin is a component of the malate-aspartate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydrogen (NADH) shuttle, an essential shuttle for hepatic glycolysis. Hepatic glycolysis and the coupled lipogenesis are impaired in citrin deficiency. Hepatic lipogenesis plays a significant role in fat supply during growth spurt periods: the fetal period, infancy, and puberty. Growth impairment in these periods is characteristic of citrin deficiency. Hepatocytes with citrin deficiency cannot use glucose and fatty acids as energy sources due to defects in the NADH shuttle and downregulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα), respectively. An energy deficit in hepatocytes is considered a fundamental pathogenesis of citrin deficiency. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) supplementation with a lactose-restricted formula and MCT supplementation under a low-carbohydrate diet are recommended for NICCD and CTLN2, respectively. MCT supplementation therapy can provide energy to hepatocytes, promote lipogenesis, correct the cytosolic NAD+ /NADH ratio via the malate-citrate shuttle and improve ammonia detoxification, and it is a reasonable therapy for citrin deficiency. It is very important to administer MCT at a dose equivalent to the liver's energy requirements in divided doses with meals. MCT supplementation therapy is certainly promising for promoting growth spurts during infancy and adolescence and for preventing CTLN2 onset. Intravenous administration of solutions containing fructose is contraindicated, and persistent hyperglycemia should be avoided due to glucose intoxication for patients receiving hyperalimentation or with complicating diabetes.

Keywords: adult-onset type II citrullinemia (CTLN2); citrin deficiency; failure to thrive and dyslipidemia by citrin deficiency (FTTDCD); medium-chain triglyceride (MCT); neonatal intrahepatic cholestasis by citrin deficiency (NICCD).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Citrullinemia / drug therapy*
  • Citrullinemia / metabolism
  • Citrullinemia / prevention & control*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Triglycerides / therapeutic use*


  • Triglycerides