Molecular heterogeneity of pyruvate kinase deficiency

Haematologica. 2020 Sep 1;105(9):2218-2228. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2019.241141.


Red cell pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency is the most common glycolytic defect associated with congenital non-spherocytic hemolytic anemia. The disease, transmitted as an autosomal recessive trait, is caused by mutations in the PKLR gene and is characterized by molecular and clinical heterogeneity; anemia ranges from mild or fully compensated hemolysis to life-threatening forms necessitating neonatal exchange transfusions and/or subsequent regular transfusion support; complications include gallstones, pulmonary hypertension, extramedullary hematopoiesis and iron overload. Since identification of the first pathogenic variants responsible for PK deficiency in 1991, more than 300 different variants have been reported, and the study of molecular mechanisms and the existence of genotype-phenotype correlations have been investigated in-depth. In recent years, during which progress in genetic analysis, next-generation sequencing technologies and personalized medicine have opened up important landscapes for diagnosis and study of molecular mechanisms of congenital hemolytic anemias, genotyping has become a prerequisite for accessing new treatments and for evaluating disease state and progression. This review examines the extensive molecular heterogeneity of PK deficiency, focusing on the diagnostic impact of genotypes and new acquisitions on pathogenic non-canonical variants. The recent progress and the weakness in understanding the genotype-phenotype correlation, and its practical usefulness in light of new therapeutic opportunities for PK deficiency are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Congenital Nonspherocytic* / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Congenital Nonspherocytic* / genetics
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Congenital* / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Congenital* / genetics
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Congenital* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Pyruvate Kinase / deficiency
  • Pyruvate Kinase / genetics
  • Pyruvate Metabolism, Inborn Errors* / diagnosis
  • Pyruvate Metabolism, Inborn Errors* / genetics
  • Pyruvate Metabolism, Inborn Errors* / therapy


  • Pyruvate Kinase

Supplementary concepts

  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency of Red Cells