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Multiple phenotypic domains of Fabry disease and their relevance for establishing genotype–phenotype correlations

Authors Oliveira JP, Ferreira S

Received 3 October 2018

Accepted for publication 14 January 2019

Published 5 March 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 35—50

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/TACG.S146022

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Martin H. Maurer


João Paulo Oliveira,1,2,3 Susana Ferreira1,3

1Department of Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Alameda Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal; 2Service of Medical Genetics, São João University Hospital Centre, Alameda Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal; 3i3S – Institute for Research and Innovation in Health / [Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde], University of Porto, 4200-135 Porto, Portugal

Abstract: Fabry disease (FD) is a rare X-linked glycosphingolipidosis resulting from deficient α-galactosidase A (AGAL) activity, caused by pathogenic mutations in the GLA gene. In males, the multisystemic involvement and the severity of tissue injury are critically dependent on the level of AGAL residual enzyme activity (REA) and on the metabolic load of the disease, but organ susceptibility to damage varies widely, with heart appearing as the most vulnerable to storage pathology, even with relatively high REA. The expression of FD can be conceived as a multidomain phenotype, where each of the component domains is the laboratory or clinical expression of the causative GLA mutation along a complex pathophysiologic cascade pathway. The AGAL enzyme activity is the most clinically useful marker of the protein phenotype. The metabolic phenotype and the pathologic phenotype are diverse expressions of the storage pathology, respectively, assessed by biochemical and histological/ultrastructural methods. The storage phenotypes are the direct consequences of enzyme deficiency and hence, together with the enzymatic phenotype, constitute the more specific diagnostic markers of FD. In the pathophysiology cascade, the clinical phenotypes are most distantly linked to the underlying genetic causation, being critically influenced by the patients’ gender and age, and modulated by the effects of variation in other genetic loci, of polygenic inheritance and of environmental risk factors. A major challenge in the clinical phenotyping of patients with FD is the differential diagnosis between its nonspecific, later-onset complications, particularly the cerebrovascular, cardiac and renal, and similar chronic illnesses that are common in the general population. Comprehensive phenotyping, whenever possible performed in hemizygous males, is therefore crucial for grading the severity of pathogenic GLA variants, to clarify the phenotypic correlations of hypomorphic alleles, to define benign polymorphisms, as well as to establish the pathogenicity of variants of uncertain significance.

Keywords: Fabry disease phenotypic variants, α-galactosidase, GLA gene, biomarkers, pathophysiology cascade, phenocopies

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