The mucopolysaccharidoses: inborn errors of glycosaminoglycan catabolism

Hum Genet. 1976 Jun 29;32(3):233-55. doi: 10.1007/BF00295816.


The mucopolysaccharidoses are genetic disorders of glycosaminoglycan metabolism. Patients with these diseases accumulate within the lysosomes of most tissues excessive amounts of dermatan and/or heparan sulfates, or of keratan sulfate. The clinical consequences of such glycosaminoglycan storage range from skeletal abnormalities to cardiovascular problems, and to motor and mental retardation. In all mucopolysaccharidoses, except Morquio disease, an excessive accumulation of sulfate-labeled glycosaminoglycans has been demonstrated in fibroblasts cultured from the patient's skin. It was subsequently shown that this was due to the deficiency of specific proteins which were named "corrective factors", because their addition to the culture medium effected a normalization of the impaired glycosaminoglycan catabolism in the respective mucopolysaccharidosis fibroblasts. The investigation of the function of the corrective factors, and other studies, led to the identification of the enzymatic defect in each of the mucopolysaccharidoses. Seven lysosomal enzyme deficiencies are now recognized among this group of disorders. A classification of the diseases, according to the mutant gene products, reveals that there is considerable phenotypic variation not only between diseases, but also within several disease types. With the availability of the appropriate enzyme assays, the previous difficulties in diagnosing these disorders have now been overcome. Methods are also available for the prenatal diagnosis, and the detection of heterozygous individuals, in most of the mucopolysaccharidoses. Although correction of the metabolic defect through enzyme replacement has been achieved in tissue culture, many problems remain to be solved before such therapy may become applicable in the patients themselves.

MeSH terms

  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / deficiency
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes
  • Mucopolysaccharidoses* / diagnosis
  • Mucopolysaccharidoses* / enzymology
  • Mucopolysaccharidoses* / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Sulfatases / deficiency


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Sulfatases
  • Glycoside Hydrolases