Mutations in the phenylalanine hydroxylase gene: genetic determinants for the phenotypic variability of hyperphenylalaninemia

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1994 Dec;407:49-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1994.tb13451.x.


Phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) deficiency is a heterogeneous disease at the phenotype level. The spectrum of clinical and metabolic phenotypes spans from the potential pathogenic disease classical phenylketonuria (PKU) to the benign condition non-PKU hyperphenylalaninemia (non-PKU HPA). This review provides an introduction to the clinical variants of PAH deficiency, and summarizes our attempts to define the disease at the molecular level and to relate mutation genotype to clinical outcome. Complete genotype determination in a large number of patients with PAH-deficient hyperphenylalaninemia demonstrates that clinical heterogeneity can be explained by a multiplicity of mutations in the PAH gene. Some combinations of mutations are associated with phenylalanine levels fluctuating around the border between PKU and non-PKU HPA. However, certain mutations seem always to cause non-PKU HPA irrespective of the mutation on the second allele and can, therefore, unambiguously be designated as being associated with the non-PKU HPA phenotype. Our results suggest that mutation analysis in newborns presenting with hyperphenylalaninemia can be used for rapid and highly efficient differential diagnosis of PAH deficiency, and for predicting the severity of the disease. These possibilities may facilitate and optimize the management of hyperphenylalaninemia and thereby improve prognosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Phenylalanine / blood
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase / deficiency
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase / genetics*
  • Phenylketonurias / diagnosis
  • Phenylketonurias / epidemiology
  • Phenylketonurias / genetics*
  • Phenylketonurias / therapy
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Phenylalanine
  • Phenylalanine Hydroxylase