Multiple carboxylase deficiency: inherited and acquired disorders of biotin metabolism

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1997;67(5):377-84.


Acquired biotin deficiency and the two known congenital disorders of biotin metabolism, biotinidase and holocarboxylase synthetase (HCS) deficiency, all lead to deficiency of the 4 biotin-dependent carboxylases, i.e. to multiple carboxylase deficiency (MCD). The underlying mechanism in HCS-deficiency, discovered in 1981, is decreased affinity of HCS for biotin impairing the formation of holocarboxylases at physiological biotin levels. In biotinidase deficiency, discovered in 1983, MCD results from progressive development of biotin-deficiency due to inability to liberate and recycle biotin which is lost in urine as biocytin. MCD leads to typical organic aciduria and severe life-threatening illness. Main symptoms and signs are feeding difficulties, neurologic abnormalities (hypotonia, impaired consciousness, seizures, ataxia) and cutaneous changes (rash, alopecia). However, the clinical presentation and age of onset are extremely variable, and organic aciduria may initially be absent in biotinidase deficiency. Therefore, the definitive diagnosis requires enzyme studies. MCD can be detected in lymphocytes obtained before treatment and biotinidase deficiency is confirmed or excluded by a colorimetric enzyme assay in plasma. Newborn screening for biotinidase deficiency has resulted in the detection of patients with partial deficiency (10-30% of mean normal activity) in addition to patients with profound deficiency (0-10%). Severe illness has been observed mainly in patients with O-activity or a Km-mutation, detection of which requires detailed investigation. HCS-deficiency has to be confirmed by enzyme assay in cultured cells. Both congenital disorders respond clinically and biochemically to oral biotin therapy. Whereas 10 mg/day or less is sufficient to treat profound biotinidase deficiency, the optimal biotin dose for patients with HCS-deficiency must be assessed individually. The prognosis of both disorders is good if biotin therapy is introduced early and continued throughout life. However, delayed commencement of therapy in biotinidase deficiency can result in irreversible neurological damage, and in HCS-deficiency a few patients have responded only partially even to massive biotin doses of up to 100 mg/day.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases* / deficiency
  • Amidohydrolases* / metabolism
  • Biotin / metabolism*
  • Biotinidase
  • Carbon-Nitrogen Ligases* / deficiency
  • Carbon-Nitrogen Ligases* / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Multiple Carboxylase Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Multiple Carboxylase Deficiency / enzymology
  • Multiple Carboxylase Deficiency / etiology*


  • Biotin
  • Amidohydrolases
  • Biotinidase
  • Carbon-Nitrogen Ligases
  • holocarboxylase synthetases