Defects of thiamine transport and metabolism
Thiamine, in the form of thiamine pyrophosphate, is a cofactor for a number of enzymes which play important roles in energy metabolism. Although dietary thiamine deficiency states have long been recognised, it is only relatively recently that inherited defects in thiamine uptake, activation and the attachment of the active cofactor to target enzymes have been described, and the underlying genetic defects identified. Thiamine is transported into cells by two carriers, THTR1 and THTR2, and deficiency of these results in thiamine-responsive megaloblastic anaemia and biotin-responsive basal ganglia disease respectively. Defective synthesis of thiamine pyrophosphate has been found in a small number of patients with episodic ataxia, delayed development and dystonia, while impaired transport of thiamine pyrophosphate into the mitochondrion is associated with Amish lethal microcephaly in most cases. In addition to defects in thiamine uptake and metabolism, patients with pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency and maple syrup urine disease have been described who have a significant clinical and/or biochemical response to thiamine supplementation. In these patients, an intrinsic structural defect in the target enzymes reduces binding of the cofactor and this can be overcome at high concentrations. In most cases, the clinical and biochemical abnormalities in these conditions are relatively non-specific, and the range of recognised presentations is increasing rapidly at present as new patients are identified, often by genome sequencing. These conditions highlight the value of a trial of thiamine supplementation in patients whose clinical presentation falls within the spectrum of documented cases.