Distinctive metabolic remodeling in TYMP deficiency beyond mitochondrial dysfunction

J Mol Med (Berl). 2023 Oct;101(10):1237-1253. doi: 10.1007/s00109-023-02358-9. Epub 2023 Aug 21.


Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE) is caused by mutations in the TYMP gene, which encodes thymidine phosphorylase (TP). As a cytosolic metabolic enzyme, TP defects affect biological processes that are thought to not be limited to the abnormal replication of mitochondrial DNA. This study aimed to elucidate the characteristic metabolic alterations and associated homeostatic regulation caused by TYMP deficiency. The pathogenicity of novel TYMP variants was evaluated in terms of clinical features, genetic analysis, and structural instability. We analyzed plasma samples from three patients with MNGIE; three patients with m.3243A > G mitochondrial encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS); and four healthy controls (HC) using both targeted and untargeted metabolomics techniques. Transcriptomics analysis and bioenergetic studies were performed on skin fibroblasts from participants in these three groups. A TYMP overexpression experiment was conducted to rescue the observed changes. Compared with controls, specific alterations in nucleosides, bile acids, and steroid metabolites were identified in the plasma of MNGIE patients. Comparable mitochondrial dysfunction was present in fibroblasts from patients with TYMP deficiency and in those from patients with the m.3243A > G mutation. Distinctively decreased sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP) regulated cholesterol metabolism and fatty acid (FA) biosynthesis as well as reduced FA degradation were revealed in fibroblasts with TYMP deficiency. The restoration of thymidine phosphorylase activity rescued the observed changes in MNGIE fibroblasts. Our findings indicated that more widespread metabolic disturbance may be caused by TYMP deficiency in addition to mitochondrial dysfunction, which expands our knowledge of the biochemical outcome of TYMP deficiency. KEY MESSAGES: Distinct metabolic profiles in patients with TYMP deficiency compared to those with m.3243A > G mutation. TYMP deficiency leads to a global disruption of nucleoside metabolism. Cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism are inhibited in individuals with MNGIE. TYMP is functionally related to SREBP-regulated pathways. Potential metabolite biomarkers that could be valuable clinical tools to improve the diagnosis of MNGIE.

Keywords: Cholesterol metabolism; Fatty acid metabolism; MNGIE; Metabolomics; TYMP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / genetics
  • Fatty Acids
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / genetics
  • Thymidine Phosphorylase* / genetics
  • Thymidine Phosphorylase* / metabolism


  • Thymidine Phosphorylase
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Cholesterol
  • Fatty Acids
  • TYMP protein, human