Heterogeneity of biochemical, clinical and immunological parameters in severe combined immunodeficiency due to adenosine deaminase deficiency

Clin Exp Immunol. 1987 Dec;70(3):491-9.


There was considerable heterogeneity of the biochemical, clinical and immunological findings in 12 patients and two fetuses from 16 kindreds affected by severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) due to a complete deficiency of the enzyme adenosine deaminase (ADA). Despite this heterogeneity a consistent pattern was observed, in which levels of abnormal purine metabolites paralleled the severity of the immunodeficiency. A high level of urinary deoxyadenosine was a universal finding for homozygous ADA deficiency. ATP depletion, in association with raised deoxy-ATP (dATP) levels, was found in the erythrocytes of nine infants with profound cellular and humoral immunodeficiency. There was no erythrocyte ATP depletion in two patients with some residual immunity, who presented later, but adenosine accumulated in their plasma and urine. This finding, together with the presence of some T and normal B-lymphocytes in less severely affected patients, suggests that adenosine is relatively non-toxic. The other results are consistent with the hypothesis that the sequence of deoxyadenosine accumulation, dATP formation and ATP depletion represents the major mechanism of toxicity to the immune system. Low numbers of T lymphocytes and dATP accumulation were also found in the blood of affected fetuses at 18 weeks gestation. Since extreme instability of erythrocyte ADA was demonstrated in some heterozygotes, and heterozygote ADA levels were detected in one infant with SCID, simultaneous immunological and biochemical analysis of fetal blood are important for precise antenatal diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Deaminase / blood
  • Adenosine Deaminase / deficiency*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / enzymology
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / immunology
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nucleoside Deaminases / deficiency*
  • Nucleotides / blood
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Purines / metabolism


  • Nucleotides
  • Purines
  • Nucleoside Deaminases
  • Adenosine Deaminase