Systematic analysis of molecular defects in the ferrochelatase gene from patients with erythropoietic protoporphyria

Am J Hum Genet. 1998 Jun;62(6):1341-52. doi: 10.1086/301870.


Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP; MIM 177000) is an inherited disorder caused by partial deficiency of ferrochelatase (FECH), the last enzyme in the heme biosynthetic pathway. In EPP patients, the FECH deficiency causes accumulation of free protoporphyrin in the erythron, associated with a painful skin photosensitivity. In rare cases, the massive accumulation of protoporphyrin in hepatocytes may lead to a rapidly progressive liver failure. The mode of inheritance in EPP is complex and can be either autosomal dominant with low clinical penetrance, as it is in most cases, or autosomal recessive. To acquire an in-depth knowledge of the genetic basis of EPP, we conducted a systematic mutation analysis of the FECH gene, following a procedure that combines the exon-by-exon denaturing-gradient-gel-electrophoresis screening of the FECH genomic DNA and direct sequencing. Twenty different mutations, 15 of which are newly described here, have been characterized in 26 of 29 EPP patients of Swiss and French origin. All the EPP patients, including those with liver complications, were heterozygous for the mutations identified in the FECH gene. The deleterious effect of all missense mutations has been assessed by bacterial expression of the respective FECH cDNAs generated by site-directed mutagenesis. Mutations leading to a null allele were a common feature among three EPP pedigrees with liver complications. Our systematic molecular study has resulted in a significant enlargement of the mutation repertoire in the FECH gene and has shed new light on the hereditary behavior of EPP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Child
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Ferrochelatase / genetics*
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Pedigree
  • Porphyria, Hepatoerythropoietic / enzymology
  • Porphyria, Hepatoerythropoietic / genetics*
  • Porphyria, Hepatoerythropoietic / physiopathology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Switzerland


  • Ferrochelatase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/D00726