American journal of human genetics

ALAD porphyria is a conformational disease.

PMID 17236137


ALAD porphyria is a rare porphyric disorder, with five documented compound heterozygous patients, and it is caused by a profound lack of porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS) activity. PBGS, also called "delta-aminolevulinate dehydratase," is encoded by the ALAD gene and catalyzes the second step in the biosynthesis of heme. ALAD porphyria is a recessive disorder; there are two common variant ALAD alleles, which encode K59 and N59, and eight known porphyria-associated ALAD mutations, which encode F12L, E89K, C132R, G133R, V153M, R240W, A274T, and V275M. Human PBGS exists as an equilibrium of functionally distinct quaternary structure assemblies, known as "morpheeins," in which one functional homo-oligomer can dissociate, change conformation, and reassociate into a different oligomer. In the case of human PBGS, the two assemblies are a high-activity octamer and a low-activity hexamer. The current study quantifies the morpheein forms of human PBGS for the common and porphyria-associated variants. Heterologous expression in Escherichia coli, followed by separation of the octameric and hexameric assemblies on an ion-exchange column, showed that the percentage of hexamer for F12L (100%), R240W (80%), G133R (48%), C132R (36%), E89K (31%), and A274T (14%) was appreciably larger than for the wild-type proteins K59 and N59 (0% and 3%, respectively). All eight porphyria-associated variants, including V153M and V275M, showed an increased propensity to form the hexamer, according to a kinetic analysis. Thus, all porphyria-associated human PBGS variants are found to shift the morpheein equilibrium for PBGS toward the less active hexamer. We propose that the disequilibrium of morpheein assemblies broadens the definition of conformational diseases beyond the prion disorders and that ALAD porphyria is the first example of a morpheein-based conformational disease.