Functional Assessment of Homozygous ALDH18A1 Variants Reveals Alterations in Amino Acid and Antioxidant Metabolism

Hum Mol Genet. 2022 Sep 6;ddac226. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac226. Online ahead of print.


Mono- and biallelic variants in ALDH18A1 cause a spectrum of human disorders associated with cutaneous and neurological findings that overlap with both cutis laxa and spastic paraplegia. ALDH18A1 encodes the bifunctional enzyme pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase (P5CS) that plays a role in the de novo biosynthesis of proline and ornithine. Here we characterize a previously unreported homozygous ALDH18A1 variant (p.Thr331Pro) in four affected probands from two unrelated families, and demonstrate broad-based alterations in amino acid and antioxidant metabolism. These four patients exhibit variable developmental delay, neurological deficits, and loose skin. Functional characterization of the p.Thr331Pro variant demonstrated a lack of any impact on the steady-state level of the P5CS monomer or mitochondrial localization of the enzyme, but reduced incorporation of the monomer into P5CS oligomers. Using an unlabeled NMR-based metabolomics approach in patient fibroblasts and ALDH18A1-null human embryonic kidney cells expressing the variant P5CS, we identified reduced abundance of glutamate and several metabolites derived from glutamate, including proline and glutathione. Biosynthesis of the polyamine putrescine, derived from ornithine, was also decreased in patient fibroblasts, highlighting the functional consequence on another metabolic pathway involved in antioxidant responses in the cell. RNA sequencing of patient fibroblasts revealed transcript abundance changes in several metabolic and ECM-related genes, adding further insight into pathogenic processes associated with impaired P5CS function. Together these findings shed new light on amino acid and antioxidant pathways associated with ALDH18A1-related disorders, and underscore the value of metabolomic and transcriptomic profiling to discover new pathways that impact disease pathogenesis.