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A rare, genetic disorder of urea cycle metabolism characterized by either a neonatal-onset with manifestations of lethargy, poor feeding, vomiting and tachypnea or, more commonly, presentations in infancy, childhood or adulthood with chronic neurocognitive deficits, acute encephalopathy and/or coagulation defects or other chronic liver dysfunction.
ORPHA:415Classification level: Disorder
- HHH syndrome
- ORNT1 deficiency
- Ornithine carrier deficiency
- Ornithine translocase deficiency
- Triple H syndrome
- Prevalence: <1 / 1 000 000
- Inheritance: Autosomal recessive
- Age of onset: Childhood, Adolescent, Adult, Neonatal, Infancy
- ICD-10: E72.4
- OMIM: 238970
- UMLS: C0268540
- MeSH: -
- GARD: 2830
- MedDRA: -
More than 100 cases have been reported in the literature to date. The prevalence in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada is especially high due to a founder effect and is estimated in this population at 1/1550 live births.
Age of onset can range from the neonatal period to adulthood and a wide phenotypic spectrum is noted. The neonatal presentation usually begins a few days after birth with lethargy, somnolence, refusal to feed, vomiting, tachypnea with respiratory alkalosis, and/or seizures. Onset of symptoms (ranging from mild to severe) in the majority of patients occurs in infancy, childhood and adulthood with episodes of confusion, forgetfulness, hyperammonemic coma, intellectual disability, developmental delay, spastic paraplegia, cerebellar ataxia, learning difficulties, unexplained seizures, liver dysfunction (rarely failure) and coagulopathy with factor VII-, IX- and X-deficiencies. An aversion to protein-rich foods before diagnosis is often reported.
The syndrome is due to mutations in the SLC25A15 gene (13q14) encoding the mitochondrial ornithine transporter 1 (ORNT1) which plays a role in ornithine transport across the mitochondrial membrane and consecutively in mitochondrial protein synthesis, metabolism of arginine and lysine, and synthesis of polyamines. Mutations in this protein disrupt the urea cycle, resulting in hyperornithinemia, hyperammonemia and homocitrullinuria. Patients with a complete ORNT1 deficiency present in the neonatal period with severe hyperammonemia whereas those with a partial deficiency present later, between infancy to adulthood.
Diagnosis is based on clinical findings and specific metabolic abnormalities. Laboratory tests usually reveal increased urinary excretion of orotic acid, homocitrulline and uracil, and a rise in the levels of plasma polyamines, ornithine, glutamine, alanine, and liver transaminases. Plasma ammonia levels are elevated episodically or postprandially and plasma ornithine is chronically elevated and is a hallmark of the disease as is the presence of homocitrulline in urine. Molecular genetic testing confirms diagnosis.
Differential diagnosis includes other urea cycle disorders as well as lysinuric protein intolerance. Hyperinsulinism-hyperammonemia syndrome, pyruvate carboxylase deficiency and secondary causes of hyperammonemia should also be considered.
Prenatal diagnosis is possible in families with a known disease causing mutation on both alleles.
The pattern of inheritance is autosomal recessive; where both parents are unaffected carriers, there is a 25% risk of inheriting the disease.
Management and treatment
Treatment involves the adherence to a low protein diet along with citrulline or arginine supplementation. In resistant cases, sodium benzoate and/or sodium or glycerol phenylbutyrate may be necessary for control of plasma ammonia levels. Patients should be monitored during times of stress (e.g. pregnancy, surgery, intercurrent infections) and when taking certain medications (i.e. corticosteroids) as they can trigger an episode of hyperammonemia. Hyperammonemic coma is treated in a tertiary care center where plasma ammonia levels must be lowered (by hemodialysis or hemofiltration), ammonia scavenger therapy implemented, catabolism reversed (with glucose and lipid infusions) and special care taken to reduce the risk of neurological damage.
With early diagnosis and proper adherence to treatment protocol the prognosis is better than for most other urea cycle defects. However, patients remain at risk for metabolic decompensation throughout life and irreversible neurological complications can occur if treatment is delayed.
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