The role of neurogenetics in Gaucher disease

Arch Neurol. 1993 Nov;50(11):1212-24. doi: 10.1001/archneur.1993.00540110088009.


Gaucher disease is the most prevalent hereditary metabolic storage disorder, and the most common genetic disease in individuals of Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry. Patients with Gaucher disease have been classified into three clinical phenotypes. Patients with type 1 disease exhibit markedly variable hepatosplenomegaly, anemia, thrombocytopenia, skeletal, and, to a lesser extent, pulmonary and kidney involvement. The central nervous system does not appear to be involved. In patients with type 2 Gaucher disease, hepatosplenomegaly and extensive central nervous system damage are apparent in infancy. These patients usually die between 1 and 2 years of age. Patients with type 3 Gaucher disease have been subclassified into types 3a and 3b. Type 3a patients exhibit mild-to-moderate hepatosplenomegaly and slowly progressive neurologic deterioration. Recurrent myoclonic seizures are common. Patients with type 3b Gaucher disease exhibit splenomegaly along with extensive hepatomegaly that is frequently accompanied by esophageal varices. Horizontal supranuclear gaze paresis is the major neurologic sign. Excessive quantities of glucocerebroside accumulate in the organs of patients with Gaucher disease because of a deficiency of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase. In the vast majority of patients, the reduction of glucocerebrosidase activity is caused by mutations in the gene that codes for glucocerebrosidase. In a few instances, glucocerebroside accumulates due to a lack of saposin C, a cohydrolase that is required in addition to glucocerebrosidase for the catabolism of glucocerebroside. Mutations in the glucocerebrosidase gene are discussed in the context of the severity of disease and the presence or absence of nervous system involvement. Enzyme replacement therapy is highly beneficial for patients with type 1 Gaucher disease. Enzyme replacement is also being investigated for patients with type 3b Gaucher disease. Novel procedures must be developed to deliver glucocerebrosidase to the nervous system so that patients with type 2 and type 3a Gaucher disease can be helped. Exploration of gene therapy for Gaucher disease is under way.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Enzymes / administration & dosage
  • Gaucher Disease / complications
  • Gaucher Disease / enzymology
  • Gaucher Disease / genetics*
  • Gaucher Disease / therapy
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Glucosylceramidase / deficiency
  • Glucosylceramidase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism


  • Enzymes
  • Glucosylceramidase