MIM Entry: 272800
#272800 TAY-SACHS DISEASE; TSD
;;GM2-GANGLIOSIDOSIS, TYPE I;;
B VARIANT GM2-GANGLIOSIDOSIS;;
HEXOSAMINIDASE A DEFICIENCY;;
TAY-SACHS DISEASE, JUVENILE, INCLUDED;;
HEXOSAMINIDASE A DEFICIENCY, ADULT TYPE, INCLUDED;;
GM2-GANGLIOSIDOSIS, ADULT CHRONIC TYPE, INCLUDED;;
GM2-GANGLIOSIDOSIS, VARIANT B1, INCLUDED;;
TAY-SACHS DISEASE, VARIANT B1, INCLUDED;;
TAY-SACHS DISEASE, PSEUDO-AB VARIANT, INCLUDED
A number sign (#) is used with this entry because Tay-Sachs disease is
caused by mutation in the alpha subunit of the hexosaminidase A gene
Tay-Sachs disease is an autosomal recessive, progressive
neurodegenerative disorder which, in the classic infantile form, is
usually fatal by age 2 or 3 years.
Classic Tay-Sachs disease is characterized by the onset in infancy of
developmental retardation, followed by paralysis, dementia and
blindness, with death in the second or third year of life. A gray-white
area around the retinal fovea centralis, due to lipid-laden ganglion
cells, leaving a central 'cherry-red' spot is a typical funduscopic
finding. Pathologic verification is provided by the finding of the
typically ballooned neurons in the central nervous system. An early and
persistent extension response to sound ('startle reaction') is useful
for recognizing the disorder.
Kolodny (1972), who studied the proband described by Okada et al.
(1971), stated that visual function was retained and optic atrophy was
not present at age 20 months. At death at 32 months, microscopic
findings in the central nervous system were similar to those in
Tay-Sachs disease. The patients showed normal results in tests that
usually demonstrate the Tay-Sachs heterozygote.
Suzuki et al. (1970) and O'Brien (1972) reported non-Jewish patients
with the Tay-Sachs variant of juvenile-onset GM2-gangiosidosis. Onset
occurred with ataxia between ages 2 and 6 years. Thereafter
deterioration to decerebrate rigidity took place. Blindness occurred
late in the course in only some patients, unlike the situation in
classic Tay-Sachs disease in which blindness is an invariable and early
development. Death occurred between ages 5 and 15 years. The defect is a
partial deficiency of hexosaminidase A.
Rapin et al. (1976) described a brother and 2 sisters of Ashkenazi
extraction who had slowly progressive deterioration of gait and posture
beginning in early childhood, muscle atrophy beginning distally, pes
cavus, foot drop, spasticity, mild ataxia of limbs and trunk, dystonia,
and dysarthria. Intelligence was little affected, vision and optic fundi
were normal, and no seizures had occurred. One sister died at age 16
following a drug reaction. Autopsy showed diffuse neuronal storage with
zebra bodies and increased GM2-ganglioside. Hexosaminidase A was
decreased in the serum and leukocytes of the 2 living patients, and in
their parents was in the range of carriers of Tay-Sachs disease. The 2
living sibs were 31 and 34 years old at the time of the report. This may
be an allelic variety of Tay-Sachs disease. Kaback et al. (1978)
described a similar but possibly distinct case. The son of an Ashkenazi
couple was entirely normal until age 16 when slight leg muscle cramps
began. Hex-A deficiency was found in a screening program at age 20. Both
parents and a sister were heterozygotes. Heterokaryon complementation
showed the development of Hex-A when the proband's cells were fused with
Sandhoff cells, but showed no complementation with Tay-Sachs cells.
Between ages 20 and 22, the patient showed dramatically progressive
proximal muscle wasting, weakness, fasciculations, EMG abnormality, and
elevated CPK. Ophthalmologic, audiologic and intellectual function
remained normal. Muscle biopsy suggested anterior horn disease. Rectal
ganglion cells showed ballooning and onion-skin cytoplasmic bodies.
Willner et al. (1981) reported 9 patients from 4 unrelated Ashkenazi
Jewish families with a variant form of Hex-A deficiency masquerading as
atypical Friedreich ataxia. They proposed that the affected individuals
may be genetic compounds for the Tay-Sachs allele and another
Johnson et al. (1982) observed a 24-year-old Ashkenazi man with a 9-year
history of progressive leg weakness and fasciculations. Other data were
consistent with anterior horn cell disease. Hex-A was markedly decreased
in the patient and partially decreased in both parents and a brother. A
paternal relative had classic Tay-Sachs disease. The clinical picture,
which suggested the Kugelberg-Welander phenotype, may have resulted,
according to the suggestion of the authors, from a genetic compound
state of the classic allele and a mild allele.
Griffin (1984) had a 31-year-old patient with hexosaminidase deficiency
and marked cerebellar atrophy, dementia, and denervation motor neuron
disease. Both parents showed a partial deficiency. In 3 patients in 2
unrelated families, Mitsumoto et al. (1985) described adult variants of
hexosaminidase A deficiency. A 30-year-old non-Jewish proband in the
first family had juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis beginning at age
16 years and evolving to mild dementia, ataxia, and axonal (neuronal)
motor-sensory peripheral neuropathy. A supposedly healthy brother, aged
32, had difficulty with memory in college but had obtained 2 degrees in
8 years and worked in an electronics company. He was dismissed from his
job for poor memory and comprehension. He showed mild spasticity and
ataxia but no evidence of motor neuron disease. In the second family, a
36-year-old man with Ashkenazi mother and Syrian Sephardic father had
'pure' spinal muscular atrophy; he had lifelong physical limitation with
inability to run or throw a ball as a child. All 3 had marked cerebellar
atrophy. Against artificial substrates, Hex-A activity was in the range
of Tay-Sachs disease homozygotes but was higher when GM2 substrates were
used. Hex-A activity in the parents was in the heterozygous range.
In a 34-year-old English Canadian man described by Parnes et al. (1985),
the clinical picture was that of juvenile-onset spinal muscular atrophy.
Atypical features were prominent muscle cramps, postural and action
tremor, recurrent psychosis, incoordination, corticospinal and
corticobulbar involvement, and dysarthria. With the report of a
24-year-old, non-Jewish man with dystonia, dementia, amyotrophy,
choreoathetosis, and ataxia, Oates et al. (1986) emphasized that
presumably allelic forms of Hex-A deficiency can take unusual clinical
In Israel, Navon et al. (1986) identified 18 Hex-A-deficient adults by
the end of 1985. All were Ashkenazi. The clinical picture varied between
and within families and included spinocerebellar, various motor neuron,
and cerebellar syndromes. The possibility exists that many of the
affected persons are compound heterozygotes of the TSD allele with
another rare allele. The relatively high frequency of the atypical adult
disorder(s) in Ashkenazim is the result of the high frequency of the TSD
allele to create genetic compounds.
Grebner et al. (1986) studied 3 clinically normal persons, aged 6 to 30
years, with absent serum Hex-A activity against artificial substrates
and concluded that they were probably genetic compounds of the usual
Tay-Sachs allele and a different mutant allele that in combination with
it gave the abnormal phenotype. Karni et al. (1988) described a
39-year-old Israeli woman with proximal lower limb weakness and
fasciculations as the only manifestations of Hex-A deficiency.
Bayleran et al. (1987) characterized the defective enzyme in 2 patients
with Tay-Sachs disease and a high residual Hex-A activity. Clinical
presentation was identical to that found among Ashkenazi patients. Both
patients appeared to be heterozygous for the B1 phenotype, having
virtually no capacity for hydrolysis of the sulfated HEXA substrate
Barnes et al. (1991) described a 42-year-old man of non-Jewish ancestry
who in his 20s and 30s had the onset of slowly progressive gait
disturbance, generalized weakness, dysarthria, clumsiness and tremor of
his hands, and involuntary jerks. Two previously unreported features
were clinically evident sensory neuropathy and internuclear
Perlman (2002) commented on late-onset Tay-Sachs disease as a Friedreich
Rucker et al. (2004) evaluated eye movements in 14 patients with
late-onset Tay-Sachs disease (average age, 39 years). The main clinical
features included childhood clumsiness or incoordination, proximal
muscle weakness, ataxia, dysarthria, and tremor. All patients had normal
visual function and normal optic fundi without cherry red spots.
Saccades were hypometric and multistep with transient decelerations.
Peak acceleration values of the saccades were normal, but decelerations
occurred sooner and faster than in controls. Smooth pursuit was also
impaired. Rucker et al. (2004) postulated a disruption in a 'latch
circuit' that normally inhibits pontine 'omnipause' neurons to allow
completion of eye movement. Saccade measurements may be a means of
evaluating responses to treatment in patients with late-onset Tay-Sachs
Neufeld (1989) provided a review of the disorders related to mutations
in the HEXA (606869) and HEXB genes (606873).
Balint and Kyriakides (1968) demonstrated accumulation of a glycoprotein
in red cells of patients with Tay-Sachs disease. The basic enzyme defect
was shown by Okada and O'Brien (1969) to concern one component of
hexosaminidase. Total hexosaminidase activity was normal but when
components A (HEXA; 606869) and B (HEXB; 606873) were separated,
component A was found to be absent. Hultberg (1969) confirmed the
findings of Okada and O'Brien (1969). Okada et al. (1971) compared the
findings in regard to hexosaminidases A and B in 3 forms of ganglioside
GM2 storage disease--Tay-Sachs disease, Sandhoff disease (268800), and
Galjaard et al. (1974), Thomas et al. (1974), and Rattazzi et al. (1975)
showed that Hex-A activity appears after fusion of Tay-Sachs and
Sandhoff cells, suggesting genetic (or at least metabolic)
Beutler et al. (1975) concluded that Hex-A has the structure alpha-beta,
whereas Hex-B is beta-beta; Tay-Sachs disease is an alpha-minus
mutation, whereas Sandhoff disease is a beta-minus mutation; in the
absence of beta subunits there is increased polymerization of alpha
units to form Hex-S, which is a normal constituent of plasma and
probably has a structure of alpha-6.
O'Brien (1978) made suggestions for nomenclature of the various
hexosaminidase A and B mutations. Three loci were postulated: alpha,
responsible for the alpha subunit, mapped to chromosome 15; beta,
responsible for the beta subunit, mapped to chromosome 5; and an
activator locus or loci determining the structure of one or more
proteins that stimulate Hex-A to cleave GM2 and GA2 gangliosides.
Conzelmann et al. (1983) used a sensitive assay to demonstrate a
correlation between level of residual activity and clinical severity:
Tay-Sachs disease, 0.1% of normal; late infantile, 0.5%; adult
GM2-gangliosidosis, 2-4%; healthy persons with 'low hexosaminidase,' 11%
Several patients with a chronic type of Tay-Sachs disease were found by
d'Azzo et al. (1984) to produce alpha-hexosaminidase A.
- GM2-Gangliosidosis, B1 Variant
Patients with the GM2-gangliosidosis B1 variant produce hexosaminidase
A, which appears catalytically normal when tested with substrates such
as 4-methylumbelliferyl N-acetyl-glucosaminidase that are split by an
active site of the beta subunit, but is catalytically defective against
substrates that are hydrolyzed by the active site on the alpha subunit
of normal hexosaminidase A, which is inactivated in patients' enzyme
(Kytzia and Sandhoff, 1985).
Li et al. (1981) described a patient described as having a variant of
type AB GM2-gangliosidosis but with a probable defect in
beta-hexosaminidase A and not in the GM2 activator.
Inui et al. (1983) described a brother and sister from a consanguineous
Puerto Rican marriage who had a juvenile-onset lipidosis first evident
clinically at age 2.5 years by difficulties in motor function and delay
in development. The sibs continued to deteriorate, showing muscle
atrophy, spasticity, and loss of speech, and died at ages 7 and 8.
Examination of the brains from these patients showed that the disorder
was a GM2-gangliosidosis. HEXA and other lysosomal enzymes were normal
and the GM2-activator protein was present in high normal concentrations
in the liver. The defect in these patients appeared to reside in HEXA,
which although normal in heat stability, electrophoretic mobility, and
activity toward fluorogenic substrates, was resistant to activation,
possibly because of defective binding to the activator. Inui et al.
(1983) suggested that this be called the A(M)B variant of juvenile
GM2-gangliosidosis to distinguish it from the disorder in patients
missing the activator protein. (M = mutant.)
Sonderfeld et al. (1985) showed the expected complementation between the
B (Tay-Sachs disease) and 0 (Sandhoff disease) variants and between the
AB variant (activator deficiency) and any of the 3 variants: B, 0, and
B1. Hex-A was shown to have 2 distinct catalytic sites. Complementation
was demonstrated between B1 cells and variant 0 but not with variant B.
Thus, the B1 cells must carry a mutation in the gene for the alpha
subunit. Confirmation came from studies of the processing of immature
enzyme in variant B1 cells showing the presence of alpha precursors and
mature alpha chains but at a lower level than normal cells.
Through serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), Myerowitz et al.
(2002) determined gene expression profiles in cerebral cortex from a
Tay-Sachs patient, a Sandhoff disease patient, and a pediatric control.
Examination of genes that showed altered expression in both patients
revealed molecular details of the pathophysiology of the disorders
relating to neuronal dysfunction and loss. A large fraction of the
elevated genes in the patients could be attributed to activated
macrophages/microglia and astrocytes, and included class II
histocompatibility antigens, the proinflammatory cytokine osteopontin
(SPP1; 166490), complement components, proteinases and inhibitors,
galectins, osteonectin (SPARC; 182120), and prostaglandin D2 synthase
(PTGDS; 176803). The authors proposed a model of neurodegeneration that
includes inflammation as a factor leading to the precipitous loss of
neurons in individuals with these disorders.
By study of somatic cell hybrids, Gilbert et al. (1975) suggested that a
locus determining hexosaminidase A is on chromosome 7. Subsequently, Van
Heyningen et al. (1975) found that the MPI (154550) and PK3 (179050)
loci are on chromosome 15, and Lalley et al. (1975) concluded that MPI,
PK3 and HEXA are syntenic.
Chern et al. (1976) studied heteropolymeric hexosaminidase A formed by
human-mouse hybrid cells that contained an X-15 translocation chromosome
but lacked human chromosome 5. Tests with specific antisera suggested
that the hybrid molecule had human alpha units and mouse beta units. The
findings are consistent with hexosaminidase A being composed of alpha
and beta subunits coded by genes on chromosomes 15 and 5, respectively.
Formiga et al. (1988) reported 2 cases of interstitial deletion of
chromosome 15. Assay of hexosaminidase A in 1 enabled them to confirm
that the structural gene is located between 15q22 and 15q25 and is
included in the deletion. By high resolution in situ hybridization,
Takeda et al. (1990) narrowed the assignment to 15q23-q24. Using a cDNA
clone for in situ hybridization, Nakai et al. (1991) assigned the HEXA
gene to 15q23-q24.
Myerowitz and Costigan (1988) demonstrated that the most frequent DNA
lesion in Tay-Sachs disease in Ashkenazi Jews is a 4-bp insertion in
exon 11 of the HEXA gene (606869.0001).
The gene responsible for the juvenile form has been shown by molecular
analysis of the HEXA gene to be allelic to that responsible for the
classic infantile form of Tay-Sachs disease (Paw et al., 1990). Whereas
classic Tay-Sachs patients with complete deficiency of hexosaminidase A
die before age 5 years, patients with the partial deficiency die by age
Tanaka et al. (1990) studied 7 patients with the enzymologic
characteristics of the B1 variant. All of the patients, except 1 from
Czechoslovakia, carried the same arg178-to-his mutation referred to as
DN (see 606869.0006). The Czechoslovakian patient had a mutation in the
same codon: a change of nucleotide 532 from C to T resulting in an
arg178-to-cys change in the protein (see 606869.0007). Site-directed
mutagenesis and expression studies in COS-1 cells demonstrated that
either of the point mutations abolished catalytic activity of the alpha
subunit. The HEXA gene has 1 intron that is exceptionally large. Is it
possible that it contains a sequence that codes for an unrelated
protein, with an allelic form in linkage disequilibrium with the
Tay-Sachs gene accounting for the high frequency of the gene in
Myerowitz (1997) stated that 78 mutations in the HEXA gene had been
described, including 65 single-base substitutions, 1 large and 10 small
deletions, and 2 small insertions.
Wicklow et al. (2004) described a child with severe subacute
GM2-gangliosidosis who presented at age 22 months with classic
cherry-red spots of the fundus but did not develop any neurologic
deficit until almost age 4. They identified 3 mutations in the HEXA
gene: 10T-C (S4P; 606869.0014) and 972T-A (V324V, 606869.0057) on the
maternal allele, and 1A-T (M1L; 606869.0027) on the paternal allele.
Because the delay in onset of neurologic symptoms indicated the presence
of residual HEXA, Wicklow et al. (2004) analyzed the effects of the
amino acid substitutions on HEXA expression in COS-7 cells and
discovered that the 972T-A mutation created a new exon 8 donor site,
causing a 17-bp deletion and destabilization of the resulting abnormal
transcript. Wicklow et al. (2004) concluded that the remaining normal
mRNA produced from the 972T-A allele must account for the delayed onset
of symptoms in this child.
Balint et al. (1967) found that both homozygotes and heterozygotes show
reduced sphingomyelin in red blood cells and suggested that this
reduction is useful in carrier identification.
Triggs-Raine et al. (1990) compared DNA-based and enzyme-based screening
tests for carriers of TSD among Ashkenazim. Among 62 Ashkenazi obligate
carriers, 3 specific mutations, indicated as 606869.0001, 606869.0002,
and 606869.0008 among the allelic variants, accounted for all but one of
the mutant alleles (98%). In 216 Ashkenazi carriers identified by the
enzyme tests, DNA analysis showed that 177 (82%) had 1 of the identified
mutations. Of the 177, 79% had the exon 11 insertion mutation
(606869.0001), 18% had the intron 12 splice junction mutation
(606869.0002), and 3% had the less severe exon 7 mutation associated
with adult-onset disease (606869.0008). The results of the enzyme tests
in 39 subjects (18%) who were defined as carriers but in whom DNA
analysis did not identify a mutant allele were probably false positive
(although there remained some possibility of unidentified mutations). Of
152 persons defined as noncarriers by the enzyme-based test, 1 was
identified as a carrier by DNA analysis (i.e., a false-negative
Tay-Sachs disease was one of the disorders used as a trial for
preamplification DNA diagnosis of multiple disorders by Snabes et al.
(1994). They applied single-cell whole-genome preamplification to
PCR-based analysis of multiple disease loci from the same diploid cell.
The method they described allowed diagnosis of multiple disease genes,
analysis of multiple exons/introns within a gene, or corroborative
embryo-sex assignment and specific mutation detection at sex-linked
Although Tay-Sachs mutations are rare in the general population,
non-Jewish individuals may be screened as spouses of Jewish carriers or
as relatives of probands. To define a panel of alleles that might
account for most mutations in non-Jewish carriers, Akerman et al. (1997)
investigated 26 independent alleles from 20 obligate carriers and 3
affected individuals. Eighteen alleles were represented by 12 previously
identified mutations, 7 that were newly identified and 1 that remained
unidentified. They then investigated 46 enzyme-defined carrier alleles:
19 were pseudodeficiency alleles and 5 mutations accounted for 15 other
alleles. An eighth new mutation was detected among enzyme-defined
carriers. Eleven alleles remained unidentified, despite the testing for
23 alleles. Some may represent false positives for the enzyme test. The
results indicated that predominant mutations, other than the 2
pseudodeficiency alleles (739C-T, 606869.0035 and 745C-T) and 1 disease
allele (IVS9+1G-A; 606869.0033) do not occur in the general population.
Thus, Akerman et al. (1997) concluded that determination of carrier
status by DNA analysis alone is inefficient because of the large
proportion of rare alleles. Notwithstanding the possibility of false
positives inherent to enzyme screening, this method remains an essential
component of carrier screening in non-Jews. DNA screening can be best
used as an adjunct to enzyme testing to exclude known HEXA
pseudodeficiency alleles, the IVS9+1G-A disease allele, and other
mutations relevant to the subject's genetic heritage.
Bach et al. (2001) presented results strongly supporting the use of DNA
testing alone as the most cost-effective and efficient approach to
carrier screening for TSD in individuals of confirmed Ashkenazi Jewish
Chamoles et al. (2002) described methods for the assay of hexosaminidase
A activity in dried blood spots on filter paper for the screening of
Vallance et al. (2006) reported 2 clinically unaffected Ashkenazi Jewish
brothers who had discrepant results on diagnosis of Tay-Sachs disease
carrier status. Both had low-normal serum percent HexA enzyme activity
above the cut-off for carrier detection, but leukocyte HexA activity was
in the carrier range. DNA analysis showed that both brothers carried the
common 4-bp insertion in the HEXA gene (1277_1278insTATC; 606869.0001)
gene. Both also had 2 common polymorphisms in the HEXB gene: 619A-G
(I207V) and a 2-bp deletion (delTG) in the 3-prime untranslated region.
Genotyping of a larger sample of 72 Jewish and 104 non-Jewish alleles
samples found that the HEXB variants were in strong linkage
disequilibrium with haplotype frequencies of 9.7% and 7.7%,
respectively. Three additional TSD carriers with the unusual biochemical
phenotype (normal serum HexA activity and decreased leukocyte HexA
activity) all carried the same HEXB I207V/delTG haplotype. Finally,
analysis of a larger sample of 69 alleles found that the frequency of
this HexB haplotype was significantly associated with low serum HexB
activity. These findings indicated that this haplotype lowers HexB
activity in serum, which has the effect of raising the percent of HexA
activity as determined by heat inactivation methods of total Hex
activity. This can result in masking of carrier status in carriers of
TSD alleles that are measured solely by serum percentage of HexA
activity. Vallance et al. (2006) noted that the high prevalence of this
HexB haplotype may become clinically relevant in diagnosis of TSD
carrier status, and that additional diagnostic methods should be used.
- Prenatal Diagnosis
Conzelmann et al. (1985) performed prenatal diagnosis in a family with
the pseudo-AB variant (B1 variant) of GM2-gangliosidosis. These patients
have a late infantile form with nearly normal beta-hexosaminidase A
levels when assayed with the usual synthetic substrate
4-methylumbelliferyl-N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminide. Since the enzyme is
also inactive against another substrate that is thought to be hydrolyzed
predominantly by Hex-A, the mutation is in the alpha subunit.
Many aspects of Tay-Sachs disease and related disorders were discussed
in the proceedings of a conference edited by Kaback et al. (1977).
Tay-Sachs disease is approximately 100 times more common in infants of
Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (central-eastern Europe) than in non-Jewish
infants (Kaback et al., 1977). Tay-Sachs disease and Sandhoff disease in
French Canadians of Quebec was discussed by Andermann et al. (1977).
Whether this represents an infusion of the Tay-Sachs gene from Jewish
fur traders or an independent mutation was not known at that time, but
was settled when the intragenic lesions were identified; see
Petersen et al. (1983) concluded that proliferation of the TSD gene
occurred among the antecedents of modern Ashkenazi Jewry after the
second Diaspora (70 A.D.) and before the major migrations to regions of
Poland and Russia (1100 A.D. and later). Among Moroccan Jews, the
carriers of a Tay-Sachs mutation were estimated to have a frequency of 1
in 45 (Navon, 1990), a figure not greatly different from that found in
North American Jews.
Petersen et al. (1983) found a TSD carrier frequency in 46,304 North
American Jews to be 0.0324 (1 in 31). Jews with Polish and/or Russian
ancestry constituted 88% of this sample and had a carrier frequency of
0.0327. No carrier was found among the 166 Jews of Near Eastern origins.
Relative to Jews of Polish and Russian origins, there was a 2-fold
increase in carrier frequency in Jews of Austrian, Hungarian, and
Czechoslovakian origins. Among U.S. Jews originating from Austria, a
carrier frequency of 0.1092 was observed.
Yokoyama (1979) concluded that it is unlikely that drift alone was
responsible for the high frequency of Tay-Sachs disease in Ashkenazim.
Heterozygote advantage was considered a likely additional factor.
Spyropoulos et al. (1981) showed that proportionally the grandparents of
Tay-Sachs disease carriers died from the same causes as grandparents of
noncarriers. They suggested that the finding indirectly supports the
notion that the high frequency of the TSD gene in Ashkenazim is 'caused
by a combination of founder effect, genetic drift, and differential
Diamond (1988) defended selective advantage as the cause of the high
frequency of the TS gene in Ashkenazi Jews.
Paw et al. (1990) analyzed the frequency of 3 HEXA mutations among
heterozygotes identified in a Tay-Sachs screening program: the
4-nucleotide insertion in exon 11 (606869.0001), the G-to-C transversion
at the 5-prime splice site in intron 12 (606869.0002), and the
gly269-to-ser mutation in exon 7 (606869.0008). Mutation analysis
included PCR amplification of the relevant regions followed by
allele-specific oligonucleotide (ASO) hybridization and, in the case of
the exon 11 insertion, the formation of heteroduplex PCR fragments of
low electrophoretic mobility. The percentage distribution of the exon
11, intron 12, exon 7, and unidentified mutant alleles was 73:15:4:8
among 156 Jewish carriers of HEXA deficiency and 16:0:3:81 among 51
non-Jewish carriers. Regardless of the mutation, the ancestral origin of
the Jewish carriers was primarily eastern and (somewhat less often)
central Europe, whereas for non-Jewish carriers it was western Europe.
Among 148 Ashkenazi Jews carrying the Tay-Sachs gene, Grebner and
Tomczak (1991) found that 108 had the insertion mutation (606869.0001),
26 had the splice junction mutation (606869.0002), 5 had the adult
mutation (606869.0008), and 9 had none of the 3. Among 28 non-Jewish
carriers tested, most of whom were obligate carriers, 4 had the
insertion mutation, 1 had the adult mutation, and the remaining 23 had
none of the 3. The 2 patients with the asp258-to-his type of B1 allele
(606869.0038) had infantile TSD with serum and fibroblasts containing
heterozygote levels of HEXA.
Risch et al. (2003) postulated that geographic distribution of disease
mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population supports genetic drift,
rather than selection, as the mechanism of unusually high frequency of
conditions such as TSD. Zlotogora and Bach (2003) provided a rebuttal in
support of selection as the determining factor. They stated that the
occurrence of several mutations in the same gene or mutations in
different genes responsible for the high prevalence of some genetic
diseases in relatively small populations is most easily explained by
selection, and pointed out that Bardet-Biedl syndrome (209900) has a
high frequency among the Bedouins of the Negev, owing to mutations in 3
different genes. They pointed to the occurrence of the high frequency of
4 lysosomal storage diseases among Ashkenazim--TSD, Gaucher disease type
I (230800), Niemann-Pick disease (see 257200), and mucolipodosis type IV
(252650)--in which the mutations are in genes that encode enzymes from a
common biochemical pathway. In all 4, the main storage substances are
sphingolipids. A further indication of a nonrandom process is the number
of mutations responsible for each disorder. In almost all of the
nonlysosomal disorders, 1 mutation is prevalent, and, if more than 1
mutation is found in a given population, its frequency is significantly
less than 10% of the first mutation. This is true for almost all the
nonlysosomal disorders, except cystic fibrosis (219700), in which a
selection process had been suggested, and factor XI deficiency (612416).
On the other hand, in all 4 lysosomal disorders among Ashkenazim, the
second allele is more than 10% prevalent, when compared with the
frequency of the major mutation. Risch and Tang (2003) presented
Fernandes Filho and Shapiro (2004) reviewed the early history of
Taniike et al. (1995) produced a mouse model of Tay-Sachs disease by
targeted disruption of the HEXA gene. The mice were devoid of
beta-hexosaminidase A activity, accumulated GM2 ganglioside in the
central nervous system, and displayed neurons with membranous
cytoplasmic bodies identical to those of Tay-Sachs disease in humans.
Unlike human Tay-Sachs disease in which all neurons store GM2
ganglioside, no storage was evident in the olfactory bulb, cerebellar
cortex, or spinal anterior horn cells of these mice. Sango et al. (1995)
likewise found that disruption of the Hexa gene in mouse embryonic stem
cells resulted in mice that showed no neurologic abnormalities, although
they exhibited biochemical and pathologic features of the disease. In
contrast, mice in whom the Hexb gene was disrupted as a model of
Sandhoff disease were severely affected. The authors suggested that the
phenotypic differences between the 2 mouse models was the result of
differences in the ganglioside degradation pathway between mice and
humans. The authors postulated that alternative ganglioside degradative
pathway revealed by the hexosaminidase-deficient mice may be significant
in the analysis of other mouse models of the sphingolipidoses, as well
as suggest novel therapies for Tay-Sachs disease.
Cohen-Tannoudji et al. (1995) used gene targeting in embryonic stem (ES)
cells to disrupt the mouse Hexa gene. Mice homozygous for the disrupted
allele mimicked some of the biochemical and histologic features of human
Tay-Sachs disease. They displayed, for example, total deficiency of Hexa
activity and membranous cytoplasmic inclusions typical of
GM2-gangliosidoses found in the cytoplasm of their neurons. However,
while the number of storage neurons increased with age, it remained low
compared with that found in the human, and no apparent motor or
behavioral disorders could be observed. This suggested that
beta-hexosaminidase A is not an absolute requirement for ganglioside
degradation in mice. Nonetheless, the authors stated that animal models
should be useful for the testing of new forms of therapy.
Phaneuf et al. (1996) likewise found that mice with disruption of the
Hexa gene suffered no obvious behavioral or neurologic deficit whereas
those homozygous for a disruption of the Hexb gene developed a fatal
neurodegenerative disease with spasticity, muscle weakness, rigidity,
tremor, and ataxia. They proposed that homozygous Hexa-deficient mice
escaped disease through particle catabolism of accumulated G(M2) via
G(A2) through the combined action of sialidase and beta-hexosaminidase
In a mouse model of Tay-Sachs disease, Platt et al. (1997) evaluated a
strategy for treatment of the disorder based on N-butyldeoxynojirimycin,
an inhibitor of glycosphingolipid (GSL) biosynthesis. When Tay Sachs
mice were treated with this agent, the accumulation of GM2 in the brain
was prevented, with the number of storage neurons and the quantity of
ganglioside stored per cell markedly reduced. Thus, the authors
concluded that limiting the biosynthesis of the substrate for the
defective Hexa enzyme prevented GSL accumulation and the neuropathology
associated with its storage in lysosomes.
Guidotti et al. (1999) determined the in vivo strategy leading to the
highest Hexa activity in the maximum number of tissues in Hexa-deficient
knockout mice. They demonstrated that intravenous coadministration of
adenoviral vectors coding for both alpha- and beta-subunits, resulting
in preferential liver transduction, was essential to obtain the most
successful results. Only the supply of both subunits allowed for Hexa
overexpression, leading to massive secretion of the enzyme in serum, and
full or partial restoration of enzymatic activity in all peripheral
tissues tested. These results emphasized the need to overexpress both
subunits of heterodimeric proteins in order to obtain a high level of
secretion in animals defective in only 1 subunit. Otherwise, the
endogenous nondefective subunit is limiting.
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HEAD AND NECK:
Macular pallor with prominence of fovea centralis (cherry red spot);
[Central nervous system];
Increased startle response;
Poor head control;
Hexosaminidase A deficiency
Usually fatal by age 5 years;
Incidence of 1 in 3,900 births among Jewish persons;
Incidence of 1 in 320,000 births among non-Jewish persons
Caused by mutations in the hexosaminidase A, alpha polypeptide gene
Cassandra L. Kniffin - updated: 05/27/2009
Michael J. Wright - revised: 6/23/1999
Ada Hamosh - revised: 6/23/1999
John F. Jackson: 6/15/1995
Cassandra L. Kniffin - updated: 1/4/2010
Cassandra L. Kniffin - updated: 4/6/2005
Cassandra L. Kniffin - updated: 12/15/2004
Marla J. F. O'Neill - updated: 6/30/2004
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 8/11/2003
George E. Tiller - updated: 2/24/2003
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 1/22/2003
Cassandra L. Kniffin - reorganized: 5/7/2002
Cassandra L. Kniffin - updated: 5/7/2002
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 2/21/2001
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 5/18/1999
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 9/9/1998
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 9/4/1998
Victor A. McKusick - edited: 2/24/1998
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 10/10/1997
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 8/27/1997
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 6/16/1997
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 5/8/1997
Victor A. McKusick - updated: 4/17/1997
Perseveranda M. Cagas - updated: 11/6/1996
Orest Hurko - updated: 11/6/1996
Stylianos E. Antonarakis - updated: 6/29/1996
Orest Hurko - updated: 6/13/1995
Victor A. McKusick: 6/4/1986