Sialic acid metabolism in sialuria fibroblasts

R. Seppala, F. Tietze, D. Krasnewich, P. Weiss, G. Ashwell, G. Barsh, G. H. Thomas, S. Packman, W. A. Gahl

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66 Scopus citations


Sialuria is a rare inborn error of metabolism caused by excessive synthesis of sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid, NeuAc). Fibroblasts cultured from the three known cases of sialuria contained 70-200-fold increases in soluble sialic acid, but normal concentrations of bound sialic acid. The sialic acid appeared in the cytosolic fraction of the cells on differential centrifugation, and was susceptible to borohydride reduction, suggesting that accumulated sialic acid was in the form of NeuAc and not CMP-NeuAc. In biochemical studies, CMP-NeuAc (50 μM) inhibited the UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) 2-epimerase of normal fibroblasts by 84-100%, but inhibited the epimerase from sialuria cells by only 19-31%. Feeding sialuria cells up to 5 mM D-glucosamine for 72 h increased free sialic acid content 20-60%, but normal cells were unaffected by this treatment. Cytidine feeding (5 mM, 72 h) reduced the NeuAc content of sialuria cells, initially 112, 104, and 266 nmol/mg protein, by 63-71 nmol/mg protein; CMP-NeuAc concentrations, initially 4, 2, and 5 nmol/mg protein, increased by 14-33 nmol/mg protein. Consequently, the total cellular content of soluble sialic acid (NeuAc + CMP-NeuAc) was lowered 14-46% by cytidine feeding. The inheritance pattern of sialuria has not been determined. However, cells from both parents of one sialuria patient contained normal concentrations of free sialic acid, and the parental epimerase activity also responded normally to CMP-NeuAc. We conclude that the basic biochemical defect in all known cases of sialuria is a failure of CMP-NeuAc to feedback-inhibit UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase and cytidine feeding can lower the intracellular soluble sialic acid concentration of sialuria cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7456-7461
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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