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Concept: Glucocerebrosidase


Gaucher disease (GD) is characterized by accumulation of glucosylceramide in lysosomes due to mutations in the GBA1 gene encoding the lysosomal hydrolase β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase). The disease has a broad spectrum of phenotypes, which were divided into three different Types; Type 1 GD is not associated with primary neurological disease while Types 2 and 3 are associated with central nervous system disease. GCase molecules are synthesized on endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-bound polyribosomes, translocated into the ER and following modifications and correct folding, shuttle to the lysosomes. Mutant GCase molecules, which fail to fold correctly, undergo ER associated degradation (ERAD) in the proteasomes, the degree of which is one of the factors that determine GD severity. Several pharmacological chaperones have already been shown to assist correct folding of mutant GCase molecules in the ER, thus facilitating their trafficking to the lysosomes. Ambroxol, a known expectorant, is one such chaperone. Here we show that ambroxol increases both the lysosomal fraction and the enzymatic activity of several mutant GCase variants in skin fibroblasts derived from Type 1 and Type 2 GD patients.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Cell, Brain, Endoplasmic reticulum, Neurology, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


To date, a plethora of studies have provided evidence favoring an association between Gaucher disease (GD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). GD, the most common lysosomal storage disorder, results from the diminished activity of the lysosomal enzyme β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase), caused by mutations in the β-glucocerebrosidase gene (GBA). Alpha-synuclein (ASYN), a presynaptic protein, has been strongly implicated in PD pathogenesis. ASYN may in part be degraded by the lysosomes and may itself aberrantly impact lysosomal function. Therefore, a putative link between deficient GCase and ASYN, involving lysosomal dysfunction, has been proposed to be responsible for the risk for PD conferred by GBA mutations. In this current work, we aimed to investigate the effects of pharmacological inhibition of GCase on ASYN accumulation/aggregation, as well as on lysosomal function, in differentiated SH-SY5Y cells and in primary neuronal cultures. Following profound inhibition of the enzyme activity, we did not find significant alterations in ASYN levels, or any changes in the clearance or formation of its oligomeric species. We further observed no significant impairment of the lysosomal degradation machinery. These findings suggest that additional interaction pathways together with aberrant GCase and ASYN must govern this complex relation between GD and PD.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Enzyme, Lysosomal storage disease, Parkinson's disease, Lysosome, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


Enzyme replacement therapy for Gaucher disease (GD) has been available since 1991. This study compared the efficacy and safety of velaglucerase alfa with imiglucerase, the previous standard of care. A 9-month, global, randomized, double-blind, non-inferiority study compared velaglucerase alfa with imiglucerase (60 U/kg every other week) in treatment-naïve patients aged 3-73 years with anemia and either thrombocytopenia or organomegaly. The primary endpoint was the difference between groups in mean change from baseline to 9 months in hemoglobin concentration. 35 patients were randomized: 34 received study drug (intent-to-treat: 17 per arm), 20 were splenectomized. Baseline characteristics were similar in the two groups. The per-protocol population included 15 patients per arm. The mean treatment difference for hemoglobin concentration from baseline to 9 months (velaglucerase alfa minus imiglucerase) was 0.14 and 0.16 g/dL in the intent-to-treat and per-protocol populations, respectively. The lower bound of the 97.5% one-sided confidence interval in both populations lay within the pre-defined non-inferiority margin of -1.0 g/dL, confirming that velaglucerase alfa is non-inferior to imiglucerase. There were no statistically significant differences in the secondary endpoints. Most adverse events were mild to moderate. No patient receiving velaglucerase alfa developed antibodies to either drug, whereas four patients (23.5%) receiving imiglucerase developed IgG antibodies to imiglucerase, which were cross-reactive with velaglucerase alfa in one patient. This study demonstrates the efficacy and safety of velaglucerase alfa compared with imiglucerase in adult and pediatric patients with GD clinically characterized as Type 1. Differences in immunogenicity were also observed. Am. J. Hematol. 88:179-184, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Immune system, Statistics, Statistical significance, Therapy, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase, Imiglucerase, Isofagomine tartrate


Abstract Mutations in the gene encoding glucocerebrosidase (GBA1) cause Gaucher disease (GD), a lysosomal storage disease with recessive inheritance. Glucocerebrosidase (GCase) is a lysosomal lipid hydrolase that digests glycolipid substrates, such as glucosylceramide and glucosylsphingosine. GBA1 mutations have been implicated in Lewy body diseases (LBDs), such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Parkinsonism occurs more frequently in certain type of GD, and GBA1 mutation carriers are more likely to have LBDs than non-carriers. Furthermore, GCase is often found in Lewy bodies, which is composed of α-synuclein fibrils as well as a variety of proteins and vesicles. In this review, we discuss potential mechanisms of action of GBA1 mutations in LBDs with particular emphasis on α-synuclein aggregation by reviewing the current literature on the role of GCase in lysosomal functions and glycolipid metabolism.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Lysosomal storage disease, Parkinson's disease, Alpha-synuclein, Lewy body, Dementia with Lewy bodies, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


Gaucher disease is caused by mutations in GBA1, which encodes the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (GCase). GBA1 mutations drive extensive accumulation of glucosylceramide (GC) in multiple innate and adaptive immune cells in the spleen, liver, lung and bone marrow, often leading to chronic inflammation. The mechanisms that connect excess GC to tissue inflammation remain unknown. Here we show that activation of complement C5a and C5a receptor 1 (C5aR1) controls GC accumulation and the inflammatory response in experimental and clinical Gaucher disease. Marked local and systemic complement activation occurred in GCase-deficient mice or after pharmacological inhibition of GCase and was associated with GC storage, tissue inflammation and proinflammatory cytokine production. Whereas all GCase-inhibited mice died within 4-5 weeks, mice deficient in both GCase and C5aR1, and wild-type mice in which GCase and C5aR were pharmacologically inhibited, were protected from these adverse effects and consequently survived. In mice and humans, GCase deficiency was associated with strong formation of complement-activating GC-specific IgG autoantibodies, leading to complement activation and C5a generation. Subsequent C5aR1 activation controlled UDP-glucose ceramide glucosyltransferase production, thereby tipping the balance between GC formation and degradation. Thus, extensive GC storage induces complement-activating IgG autoantibodies that drive a pathway of C5a generation and C5aR1 activation that fuels a cycle of cellular GC accumulation, innate and adaptive immune cell recruitment and activation in Gaucher disease. As enzyme replacement and substrate reduction therapies are expensive and still associated with inflammation, increased risk of cancer and Parkinson disease, targeting C5aR1 may serve as a treatment option for patients with Gaucher disease and, possibly, other lysosomal storage diseases.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Monocyte, Lysosomal storage disease, Parkinson's disease, Lymphatic system, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


Gaucher disease (GD) and Fabry disease (FD) are two relatively common inherited glycosphingolipidoses caused by deficiencies in the lysosomal glycosidases glucocerebrosidase and alpha-galactosidase A, respectively. For both diseases enzyme supplementation is presently used as therapy. Cells and tissues of GD and FD patients are uniformly deficient in enzyme activity, but the two diseases markedly differ in cell types showing lysosomal accumulation of the glycosphingolipid substrates glucosylceramide and globotriaosylceramide, respectively. The clinical manifestation of Gaucher disease and Fabry disease is consequently entirely different and the response to enzyme therapy is only impressive in the case of GD patients. This review compares both glycosphingolipid storage disorders with respect to similarities and differences. Presented is an update on insights regarding pathophysiological mechanisms as well as recently available biochemical markers and diagnostic tools for both disorders. Special attention is paid to sphingoid bases of the primary storage lipids in both diseases. The value of elevated glucosylsphingosine in Gaucher disease and globotriaosylsphingosine in Fabry disease for diagnosis and monitoring of disease is discussed as well as the possible contribution of the sphingoid bases to (patho)physiology. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled New frontiers in sphingolipid biology.

Concepts: Medicine, Cell, Epidemiology, Enzyme, Lysosomal storage disease, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase, Imiglucerase


Mutations in the gene coding for glucocerebrosidase (GBA), which metabolizes glucosylceramide (a monohexosylceramide) into glucose and ceramide, is the most common genetic risk factor for sporadic Parkinson’s disease (PD). GBA mutation carriers are more likely to have an earlier age of onset and to develop cognitive impairment and dementia. We hypothesized that plasma levels of lipids involved in ceramide metabolism would also be altered in PD non-GBA mutation carriers and associated with worse cognition.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Genetics, Evolution, DNA repair, Parkinson's disease, Lipid, Glucocerebrosidase


The lysosomal acid beta-glucosidase GBA1 and the non-lysosomal beta-glucosidase GBA2 degrade glucosylceramide (GlcCer) to glucose and ceramide in different cellular compartments. Loss of GBA2 activity and the resulting accumulation of GlcCer results in male infertility, whereas mutations in the GBA1 gene and loss of GBA1 activity cause the lipid-storage disorder Gaucher disease. However, the role of GBA2 in Gaucher disease pathology and its relationship to GBA1 is not well understood. Here, we report a GBA1-dependent down-regulation of GBA2 activity in patients with Gaucher disease. Using an experimental approach combining cell biology, biochemistry, and mass spectrometry, we show that sphingosine, the cytotoxic metabolite accumulating in Gaucher cells through the action of GBA2, directly binds to GBA2 and inhibits its activity. We propose a negative feed-back loop, in which sphingosine inhibits GBA2 activity in Gaucher cells, preventing further sphingosine accumulation and, thereby, cytotoxicity. Our findings add a new chapter to the understanding of the complex molecular mechanism underlying Gaucher disease and the regulation of beta-glucosidase activity in general.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Molecular biology, Biology, Feedback, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


Mutations in the glucocerebrosidase (gba) gene cause Gaucher disease (GD), the most common lysosomal storage disorder, and increase susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease (PD). While the clinical and pathological features of idiopathic PD and PD related to gba (PD-GBA) mutations are very similar, cellular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in each are unclear. Using a mouse model of neuronopathic GD, we show that autophagic machinery and proteasomal machinery are defective in neurons and astrocytes lacking gba. Markers of neurodegeneration-p62/SQSTM1, ubiquitinated proteins, and insoluble α-synuclein-accumulate. Mitochondria were dysfunctional and fragmented, with impaired respiration, reduced respiratory chain complex activities, and a decreased potential maintained by reversal of the ATP synthase. Thus a primary lysosomal defect causes accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria as a result of impaired autophagy and dysfunctional proteasomal pathways. These data provide conclusive evidence for mitochondrial dysfunction in GD and provide insight into the pathogenesis of PD and PD-GBA.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Adenosine triphosphate, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Lysosomal storage disease, Parkinson's disease, Gaucher's disease, Glucocerebrosidase


Autosomal recessively inherited glucocerebrosidase 1 (GBA1) mutations cause the lysosomal storage disorder Gaucher’s Disease (GD). Heterozygous GBA1 mutations (GBA(+/-)) are the most common risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Previous studies typically focused on the interaction between the reduction of glucocerebrosidase (enzymatic) activity in GBA(+/-) carriers and alpha-synuclein-mediated neurotoxicity. However, it is unclear whether other mechanisms also contribute to the increased risk of PD in GBA(+/-) carriers. The zebrafish genome does not contain alpha-synuclein (SNCA), thus providing a unique opportunity to study pathogenic mechanisms unrelated to alpha-synuclein toxicity. Here we describe a mutant zebrafish line created by TALEN genome editing carrying a 23 bp deletion in gba1 (gba1(c.1276_1298del)), the zebrafish orthologue of human GBA1. Marked sphingolipid accumulation was already detected at 5 days post fertilization with accompanying microglial activation and early, sustained up-regulation of miRNA-155, a master regulator of inflammation. gba1(c.1276_1298del) mutant zebrafish developed a rapidly worsening phenotype from 8 week onwards with striking reduction in motor activity by 12 weeks. Histopathologically, we observed marked Gaucher cell invasion of the brain and other organs. Dopaminergic neuronal cell count was normal through development but reduced by>30% at 12 weeks in the presence of ubiquitin-positive, intra-neuronal inclusions. This gba1(c.1276_1298del) zebrafish line is the first viable vertebrate model sharing key pathological features of GD in both neuronal and non-neuronal tissue. Our study also provides evidence for early microglial activation prior to alpha-synuclein-independent neuronal cell death in GBA1 deficiency and suggests upregulation of miR-155 as a common denominator across different neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Lysosomal storage disease, Parkinson's disease, Gaucher's disease, Lysosomal storage diseases, Glucocerebrosidase, Imiglucerase