Investigating the porphyrias through analysis of biochemical pathways.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
ABSTRACT The porphyrias are a diverse group of metabolic disorders arising from diminished activity of enzymes in the heme biosynthetic pathway. They can present with acute neurovisceral symptoms, cutaneous symptoms, or both. The complexity of these disorders is demonstrated by the fact that some acute porphyria patients with the underlying genetic defect(s) are latent and asymptomatic while others present with severe symptoms. This indicates that there is at least one other risk factor required in addition to the genetic defect for symptom manifestation. A systematic review of the heme biosynthetic pathway highlighted the involvement of a number of micronutrient cofactors. An exhaustive review of the medical literature uncovered numerous reports of micronutrient deficiencies in the porphyrias as well as successful case reports of treatments with micronutrients. Many micronutrient deficiencies present with symptoms similar to those in porphyria, in particular vitamin B6. It is hypothesized that a vitamin B6 deficiency and related micronutrient deficiencies may play a major role in the pathogenesis of the acute porphyrias. In order to further investigate the porphyrias, a computational model of the heme biosynthetic pathway was developed based on kinetic parameters derived from a careful analysis of the literature. This model demonstrated aspects of normal heme biosynthesis and illustrated some of the disordered biochemistry of acute intermittent porphyria (AIP). The testing of this model highlighted the modifications necessary to develop a more comprehensive model with the potential to investigated hypotheses of the disordered biochemistry of the porphyrias as well as the discovery of new methods of treatment and symptom control. It is concluded that vitamin B6 deficiency might be the risk factor necessary in conjunction with the genetic defect to trigger porphyria symptoms.