alexa Practical genetics: alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency and the serpinopathies.
Genetics & Molecular Biology

Genetics & Molecular Biology

Gene Technology

Author(s): Crowther DC, Belorgey D, Miranda E, Kinghorn KJ, Sharp LK,

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Abstract Alpha-1-antitrypsin (alpha(1)-antitrypsin) is the archetypal member of the serine proteinase inhibitor or serpin superfamily. The most common severe deficiency variant is the Z allele, which results in the accumulation of mutant protein within hepatocytes. This 'protein overload' causes neonatal hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The lack of circulating plasma alpha(1)-antitrypsin results in early-onset panlobular emphysema. The mechanism underlying the deficiency of Z alpha(1)-antitrypsin is due to an aberrant conformational transition within the protein and the formation of chains of polymers that tangle within the secretory pathway of hepatocytes. This mechanism also underlies the plasma deficiency of other members of the serpin superfamily to cause a class of diseases called the serpinopathies. Specifically mutant alleles of antithrombin, C1-inhibitor and alpha(1)-antichymotrypsin have been reported that favour the spontaneous formation of polymers and the retention of protein within hepatocytes. The consequent lack of plasma antithrombin, C1-inhibitor and alpha(1)-antichymotrypsin results in thrombosis, angio-oedema and emphysema, respectively. Moreover, the polymerisation of mutants of neuroserpin results in the retention of polymers within neurones to cause the inclusion body dementia, familial encephalopathy with neuroserpin inclusion bodies or FENIB. We review here the genetic and molecular basis and clinical features of alpha(1)-antitrypsin deficiency, and show how this provides a platform to understand the other serpinopathies. This article was published in Eur J Hum Genet and referenced in Gene Technology

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