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VLCAD enzyme activity determinations in newborns identified by screening: a valuable tool for risk assessment

  • Original Article
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Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease


Tandem mass spectrometry-based newborn screening correctly identifies individuals with very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (VLCADD). However, a great number of healthy individuals present with identical acylcarnitine profiles during catabolism in the first three days of life. We routinely perform an enzyme activity assay as confirmation analysis in newborns identified by screening. Whereas VLCAD residual activities of less than 10% are clearly diagnostic and indicate patients at risk of clinical disease, the clinical relevance of higher residual activities is unclear. In this study we assess the molecular basis in 34 individuals with residual activities of 10-50%. We identify two pathogenic mutations in patients that result in residual activities as high as 22%, while individuals with residual activities of 25-50% either present with a heterozygous or no mutation in the VLCAD gene. In addition, confirmed heterozygous parents present with residual activities as low as 32%.

In conclusion, we identify individuals with 2 pathogenic mutations and those with only one heterozygous mutation in the residual activity range of 20-30%. Whereas heterozygosity is generally regarded as clinically irrelevant, identification of 2 VLCAD mutations leads to precautions in the management of the children. Based on our data we anticipate that individuals with a residual enzyme activity >20% present with a biochemical phenotype but likely remain asymptomatic throughout life. Studies in greater patient numbers are needed to correlate residual activities >10% with the genotype and the outcome.

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Correspondence to Lars Hoffmann.

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Communicated by: Bridget Wilcken

Competing interest: None declared.

Lars Hoffmann and Ulrike Haussmann contributed equally to this work.

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Hoffmann, L., Haussmann, U., Mueller, M. et al. VLCAD enzyme activity determinations in newborns identified by screening: a valuable tool for risk assessment. J Inherit Metab Dis 35, 269–277 (2012).

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