Nonketotic hyperglycinemia (NKH) is a metabolic disorder with autosomal recessive inheritance, causing severe, frequently lethal, neurological symptoms in the neonatal period. The metabolic lesion of NKH is in the glycine cleavage system (GCS), a complex enzyme system with four enzyme components; P-, T-, H-, and L-protein. The enzymatic analysis revealed that 86% of the patients with NKH are deficient of P-protein activity. The cDNA clones encoding all four components were isolated and their primary structures were determined. Several mutations have been identified in P- and T-protein genes: One missense mutation, S564I, in P-protein gene accounts for 70% of the mutant alleles in Finland where the incidence of NKH is unusually high. The immunochemical and in situ hybridization analyses revealed that the strong GCS expression was observed in rat hippocampus, olfactory bulbus, and cerebellum. The distribution resembled that of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor which has binding site for glycine. It is, therefore, suggested that the neurological disturbance in NKH may be caused by excitoneurotoxicity through the NMDA receptor allosterically activated by high concentration of glycine. Based on the hypothesis the NMDA antagonists such as ketamine and dextromethorphan were administered to the patients. We treated three neonatal case with dextromethorphan and it ameliorated their findings on electroencephalogram and behavior in two out of three patients. Thus the GCS is suggested to play a role in regulation of glycine level around the NMDA receptor.
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