Gaucher's disease: the best laid schemes of mice and men

Baillieres Clin Haematol. 1997 Dec;10(4):725-37. doi: 10.1016/s0950-3536(97)80036-4.


The creation of animal models of Gaucher's disease, the inherited deficiency of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase, has led to new clinical insights and to a new appreciation of the complexity of the glucocerebrosidase gene locus. Murine embryonic stem cells with targeted modifications in the glucocerebrosidase gene were used to generate mouse models of Gaucher's disease, the first having a null glucocerebrosidase allele. The resulting knockout mice have no glucocerebrosidase activity and die within 12 hours of birth. Ultrastructural studies of liver, spleen, brain and bone marrow demonstrate the characteristic storage material seen in Gaucher patients. In the nervous system, storage of lipid increased in a rostral-caudal distribution. Analysis of skin from the knockout mice revealed histological, ultrastructural and biochemical abnormalities. The null allele Gaucher mice are analogous to neonates with Type 2 Gaucher's disease who present with hydrops foetalis and/or congenital ichthyosis. Moreover, the epidermal changes seen in Type 2 mice are also found in Type 2 patients and may provide a means to presymptomatically discriminate Type 2 from Type 1 and 3 Gaucher's disease. Another targeted modification in the murine glucocerebrosidase gene locus led to the discovery of a contiguous gene, metaxin. Closer analysis of the glucocerebrosidase gene locus, including sequencing of 75 kb of genomic DNA, reveals that this is a gene-rich region coding for seven genes and two pseudogenes. Further study of these closely arrayed genes may contribute to our understanding of the clinical variation encountered among patients with Gaucher's disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Gaucher Disease* / genetics
  • Gaucher Disease* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout