Patients with phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency show increased concentrations of biopterins and neopterins, and reduced concentrations of serotonin and catecholamines, when phenylalanine concentrations are raised. The pterin rise reflects increased synthesis of dihydroneopterin and tetrahydrobiopterin, and the amine fall a reduction in amine synthesis due to inhibition by phenylalanine of tyrosine and tryptophan transport into neurones. The pterin and amine changes appear to be independent of each other and are present in the central nervous system as well as the periphery; they disappear when phenylalanine concentrations are reduced to normal. Patients with arginase deficiency show a similar amine disturbance but have normal pterin levels. The amine changes probably contribute neurological symptoms but pterin disturbance is not known to affect brain function. Patients with defective biopterin metabolism exhibit severely impaired amine synthesis due to tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency. Pterin concentrations vary with the site of the defect. Symptoms include profound hypokinesis and other features of basal ganglia disease. Neither symptoms nor amine changes are relieved by controlling phenylalanine concentrations. Patients with dihydropteridine reductase (DHPR) deficiency accumulate dihydrobiopterins and develop secondary folate deficiency which resembles that occurring in patients with defective 5,10-methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase activity. The latter disorder is also associated with Parkinsonism and defective amine and pterin turnover in the central nervous system, and a demyelinating illness occurs in both disorders. In DHPR deficiency cerebral calcification may develop in a similar distribution to that seen in congenital folate malabsorption and methotrexate toxicity. Symptoms are ameliorated by therapy with 5-formyltetrahydrofolate but exacerbated by folic acid.
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