Lactic acidaemia is sometimes associated with a defect of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDHC), catalysing the thiamine-dependent decarboxylation of pyruvate. The activity of PDHC for different thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) concentrations was determined in 13 patients with lactic acidaemia, clinically responsive to thiamine treatment in order to assess the role of PDHC in the aetiology of thiamine-responsive lactic acidaemia. Culture of lymphoblastoid cells and skin fibroblasts and muscle biopsies were performed in these 13 patients. The activity of PDHC to sodium dichloroacetate (DCA), known as the activator of PDHC, was also examined. Three groups were identified according to PDHC activity. Group 1 (two patients) displayed very low PDHC activity, which was not increased by DCA. This PDHC activity increased at high TPP concentrations. Group 2 (five patients) displayed below normal PDHC activity at low TPP concentrations, increased by DCA. This PDHC activity became normal at high TPP concentrations. PDHC deficiency in these patients of groups 1 and 2 was due to a decreased affinity of PDHC for TPP. Group 3 included six patients with normal PDHC activity at low as well as high TPP concentrations. This PDHC activity was increased by DCA.
Conclusion: High concentrations of TPP may be required for maximal activity of PDHC in some patients with lactic acidaemia. The assay of PDHC activity, performed at a low concentration of TPP (1 x 10(-4)mM) allows selection of patients with thiamine-responsive lactic acidaemia.