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Gene gives clues to self-injurious behavior in rare disorder
Date:7/27/2011

ave only one X chromosome. HPRT1 encodes an enzyme that recycles purines, which are building blocks of DNA.

The PRTFDC1 gene looks like HPRT1, and apparently comes from a duplication of an ancestor gene millions of years ago. All mammals Keebaugh examined except mice have working copies of PRTFDC1. It's not clear whether the protein encoded by PRTFDC1 also recycles purines, she says.

"In mice, the presence of PRTFDC1 seems to enhance the effects of not having HPRT1," she says. "This suggests the two proteins are not just doing the same things. One may be regulating the other, which is something we want to investigate further."

In humans, the absence of HPRT1 leads to overabundant purines, which appears to perturb development of certain parts of the brain. In addition, the building blocks are broken down into uric acid, which accumulates in the body and can cause painful swelling of the joints.

These gout-like symptoms can be treated with medication, but the striking behavior and other neurological problems don't go away. Lesch-Nyhan patients tend to have delayed development and stiff movements and are sometimes unable to walk. They have a deficiency of the chemical messenger dopamine in the basal ganglia, the same part of the brain affected by Parkinson's disease.

Mice without HPRT1 do have reduced dopamine in the basal ganglia and are more sensitive to amphetamines, which work by enhancing dopamine's effects in the brain. This link with dopamine is what led Keebaugh to test the effects of amphetamines on the mice.

Mice missing HPRT1 and with added PRTFDC1 displayed a unique behavior: they had a "distinctive hunched posture," bobbing their heads and appearing to bite their nails. However, they did not actually damage their paws.

Keebaugh says she is continuing to study the function of PRTFDC1 with the aim of understanding how Lesch-Nyhan disease develops and identifying potential treatments.


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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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