Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive amino acid metabolism disorder caused by variants in the gene encoding phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH; EC184.108.40.206). This study aimed to assess the specific heterogeneity of PAH variants found in Thai population as well as evaluate enzyme activity and expression of novel variants. PAH gene from 13 patients was analyzed by PCR amplification and direct Sanger-sequencing of 13 exons of the coding region. The novel variants were transiently transfected in COS-7 cells for functional verification. Eleven different PAH variants were identified: all pathogenic variants were missense variants, of which the most frequent variant was p.R169L, accounting for 24% (6/25) of all identified alleles. Two novel variants p.R169L and p.Y317N and previously reported variants with mutated residues at the same positions (p.R169H and p.Y317H) were expressed in COS-7 cells. These showed mildly impaired residual activity levels (42.3-63.1% of wild type), while the protein levels were well expressed (82.8-110%), except for p.R169L, which showed decreased protein expression of 55.7% compared to the wild type enzyme. All subjects with p.R169L identified in at least one of pathogenic alleles (one case is homozygous) had a metabolic phenotype of mild hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA). Our data has expanded the information on the genetic heterogeneity of Thai patients with PAH deficiency. This finding emphasizes the importance of genotyping in patients with HPA, and in vitro studies can provide additional information for prediction of phenotype.
Keywords: PAH variants; Phenylalanine hydroxylase; Phenylketonuria; in vitro expression.