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Concept: Methylmalonic acid


Abstract Background: Methylmalonic aciduria and homocystinuria type C (cblC), a disorder of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) metabolism caused by mutations in the MMACHC gene, presents with many systemic symptoms, including neurological, cognitive, psychiatric, and thromboembolic events. Retinal phenotypes, including maculopathy, pigmentary retinopathy, and optic atrophy are common in early onset form of the disease but are rare in adult onset forms. Materials and Methods: An adult Hispanic female presented with decreased central vision, bilateral pericentral ring scotomas and bull’s eye-appearing macular lesions at 28 years of age. Her medical history was otherwise unremarkable except for iron deficiency anemia and both urinary tract and kidney infections. Screening of the ABCA4 gene, mutations in which frequently cause bull’s eye maculopathy, was negative. Subsequently, analysis with whole exome sequencing was performed. Results: Whole exome sequencing discovered compound heterozygous mutations in MMACHC, c.G482A:p.Arg161Gln and c.270_271insA:p.Arg91Lysfs*14, which segregated with the disease in the family. The genetic diagnosis was confirmed by biochemical laboratory testing, showing highly elevated urine methylmalonic acid/creatinine and homocysteine levels, and suggesting disease management with hydroxycobalamin injections and carnitine supplementation. Conclusions: In summary, a unique case of an adult patient with bull’s eye macular lesions and no clinically relevant systemic symptoms was diagnosed with cblC by genetic screening and follow-up biochemical laboratory tests.

Concepts: Genetics, Anemia, Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Iron deficiency anemia, Genetic disorders, Methylmalonic acid, Methylmalonic acidemia


Plasma vitamin B-12 is the most commonly used biomarker of vitamin B-12 status, but the predictive value for low vitamin B-12 status is poor. The urinary methylmalonic acid (uMMA) concentration has potential as a functional biomarker of vitamin B-12 status, but the response to supplemental vitamin B-12 is uncertain. A study was conducted to investigate the responsiveness of uMMA to supplemental vitamin B-12 in comparison with other biomarkers of vitamin B-12 status [plasma vitamin B-12, serum holotranscobalamin (holoTC), plasma MMA] in elderly people with moderately poor vitamin B-12 status. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized 8-wk intervention study was carried out using vitamin B-12 supplements (500 μg/d, 100 μg/d, and 10 μg/d cyanocobalamin) in 100 elderly people with a combined plasma vitamin B-12 <250 pmol/L and uMMA ratio (μmol MMA/mmol creatinine) >1.5. All biomarkers had a dose response to supplemental vitamin B-12. Improvements in plasma vitamin B-12 and serum holoTC were achieved at cobalamin supplements of 10 μg/d, but even 500 μg/d for 8 wk did not normalize plasma vitamin B-12 in 8% and serum holoTC in 12% of people. The response in uMMA was comparable with plasma MMA; 15-25% of people still showed evidence of metabolic deficiency after 500 μg/d cobalamin for 8 wk. There was a differential response in urinary and plasma MMA according to smoking behavior; the response was enhanced in ex-smokers compared with never-smokers. uMMA offers an alternative marker of metabolic vitamin-B12 status, obviating the need for blood sampling.

Concepts: Blood, Vitamin, Dietary supplement, Sociology, Vitamin B12, Methylmalonic acid, Vitamin B12 deficiency, Methylcobalamin


Methylmalonic and propionic acidemia (MMA/PA) are inborn errors of metabolism characterized by accumulation of propionic acid and/or methylmalonic acid due to deficiency of methylmalonyl-CoA mutase (MUT) or propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCC). MMA has an estimated incidence of¿~¿1: 50,000 and PA of¿~¿1:100¿000 -150,000. Patients present either shortly after birth with acute deterioration, metabolic acidosis and hyperammonemia or later at any age with a more heterogeneous clinical picture, leading to early death or to severe neurological handicap in many survivors. Mental outcome tends to be worse in PA and late complications include chronic kidney disease almost exclusively in MMA and cardiomyopathy mainly in PA. Except for vitamin B12 responsive forms of MMA the outcome remains poor despite the existence of apparently effective therapy with a low protein diet and carnitine. This may be related to under recognition and delayed diagnosis due to nonspecific clinical presentation and insufficient awareness of health care professionals because of disease rarity.These guidelines aim to provide a trans-European consensus to guide practitioners, set standards of care and to help to raise awareness. To achieve these goals, the guidelines were developed using the SIGN methodology by having professionals on MMA/PA across twelve European countries and the U.S. gather all the existing evidence, score it according to the SIGN evidence level system and make a series of conclusive statements supported by an associated level of evidence. Although the degree of evidence rarely exceeds level C (evidence from non-analytical studies like case reports and series), the guideline should provide a firm and critical basis to guide practice on both acute and chronic presentations, and to address diagnosis, management, monitoring, outcomes, and psychosocial and ethical issues. Furthermore, these guidelines highlight gaps in knowledge that must be filled by future research. We consider that these guidelines will help to harmonize practice, set common standards and spread good practices, with a positive impact on the outcomes of MMA/PA patients.

Concepts: Metabolism, Vitamin B12, Inborn error of metabolism, Methylmalonic acid, Methylmalonic acidemia, Propionic acidemia, Propionyl-CoA, Methylmalonyl-CoA mutase


Normal or high serum vitamin B-12 levels can sometimes be seen in a B-12 deficient state, and can therefore be misleading. High levels of Methymalonic Acid (MMA) and Homocysteine (HC) have been identified as better indicators of B-12 deficiency than the actual serum B-12 level itself. We evaluated the prevalence of vitamin B-12 deficiency using appropriate cut-off levels of vitamin B-12, MMA and HC, and determined the relationship between serum levels of vitamin B-12, MMA and HC in cancer.

Concepts: Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Methylmalonic acid, Vitamin B12 deficiency


This study was designed to assess whether symptoms, functional measures, and reported disabilities were associated with vitamin B12 (B12) deficiency when defined in three ways. Participants, aged 60 or more years of age, in 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) were categorized in relation to three previously used definitions of B12 deficiency: (1) serum B12 < 148 pmol/L; (2) serum B12 < 200 pmol/L and serum homocysteine > 20 μmol/L; and (3) serum B12 < 258 pmol/L or serum methylmalonic acid > 0.21 μmol/L. Functional measures of peripheral neuropathy, balance, cognitive function, gait speed, along with self-reported disability (including activities of daily living) were examined with standardized instruments by trained NHANES interviewers and technicians. Individuals identified as B12 deficient by definition 2 were more likely to manifest peripheral neuropathy OR (odds) (95% confidence intervals), p value: 9.70 (2.24, 42.07), 0.004 and report greater total disability, 19.61 (6.22, 61.86) 0.0001 after adjustments for age, sex, race, serum creatinine, and ferritin concentrations, smoking, diabetes, and peripheral artery disease. Smaller, but significantly increased, odds of peripheral neuropathy and total disability were also observed when definition 3 was applied. Functional measures and reported disabilities were associated with B12 deficiency definitions that include B12 biomarkers (homocysteine or methylmalonic acid). Further study of these definitions is needed to alert clinicians of possible subclinical B12 deficiency because functional decline amongst older adults may be correctable if the individual is B12 replete.

Concepts: Vitamin, Definition, Folic acid, Megaloblastic anemia, Vitamin B12, Methylmalonic acid, Vitamin B12 deficiency, Subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord


A 22-year-old woman presented with progressive sensory ataxia and optic neuropathy. Previous investigation by her general practitioner had found a low serum vitamin B12, which had been corrected with oral supplementation. Neurological investigations showed raised plasma homocysteine and methylmalonic acid towards the upper limit of normal with a low serum vitamin B12 MRI showed an extensive cord lesion in keeping with subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. We treated her with high dose parenteral vitamin B12and she has made a partial recovery. We discuss the management of patients who present with neurological manifestations of vitamin B12deficiency; highlighting the fact that parenteral replacement is needed in such cases, even if the serum vitamin B12level appears to be normal. We also discuss ancillary investigations that should be performed in patients with suspected vitamin B12deficiency.

Concepts: Vitamin, Ataxia, Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Cofactor, Methylmalonic acid, Vitamin B12 deficiency, Subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord


Methylmalonic acid (MMA) is a sensitive and specific functional biomarker of vitamin B-12 status, commonly assessed in plasma or serum. Dried blood spots (DBSs) allow simpler and more cost-efficient blood sampling than plasma. To facilitate convenient testing for vitamin B-12 deficiency in large-scale surveys and in population groups from remote areas, we developed a method for MMA quantification in DBSs and tested its applicability as well as the long-term stability of MMA in DBSs at various temperatures. MMA was extracted from an 8-mm DBS punch with water:methanol (95:5, v:v) and methyl-d3-malonic acid as the internal standard. After sample cleanup by ultrafiltration and hexane extraction, MMA was quantified by using reversed-phase LC-tandem mass spectrometry. Extraction conditions were optimized to maximize the detection signal and achieve DBS extract concentrations above the lowest limit of quantification (signal-to-noise ratio ≥ 10) of 10 nmol/L. Recovery was between 93% and 96%. Intra- and interassay variation (CV%) for DBS MMA was 0.49% and 2.3%, respectively. Calibrators showed linearity (R(2) = 0.998) between 10 and 10,000 nmol/L. In 94 healthy women, MMA concentrations in DBS extract (min-max: 10.2-80.5 nmol/L) and plasma (min-max: 68-950 nmol/L) were correlated (ρ = 0.90) (P < 0.001). MMA concentrations in DBSs were stable at room temperature for 1 wk, in the refrigerator for 8 wk, and at -80°C for (at least) 1 y. This simple and robust method allows quantification of MMA in DBSs of healthy individuals. The linear relation between plasma and DBS MMA suggests that DBS MMA could predict plasma MMA, the current reference indicator for functional vitamin B-12 deficiency. With the advantages of minimally invasive specimen collection and no need for laborious blood processing steps, this method has the potential to be a reliable, convenient, and field-applicable alternative for assessment of vitamin B-12 status.

Concepts: Measurement, Analytical chemistry, Minimally invasive, Vitamin B12, Blood plasma, Methylmalonic acid, Quantification, Vitamin B12 deficiency


Derivatives of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) are essential cofactors for enzymes required in intermediary metabolism. Defects in cobalamin metabolism lead to disorders characterized by the accumulation of methylmalonic acid and/or homocysteine in blood and urine. The most common inborn error of cobalamin metabolism, combined methylmalonic acidemia and hyperhomocysteinemia, cblC type, is caused by mutations in MMACHC. However, several individuals with presumed cblC based on cellular and biochemical analysis do not have mutations in MMACHC. We used exome sequencing to identify the genetic basis of an X-linked form of combined methylmalonic acidemia and hyperhomocysteinemia, designated cblX. A missense mutation in a global transcriptional coregulator, HCFC1, was identified in the index case. Additional male subjects were ascertained through two international diagnostic laboratories, and 13/17 had one of five distinct missense mutations affecting three highly conserved amino acids within the HCFC1 kelch domain. A common phenotype of severe neurological symptoms including intractable epilepsy and profound neurocognitive impairment, along with variable biochemical manifestations, was observed in all affected subjects compared to individuals with early-onset cblC. The severe reduction in MMACHC mRNA and protein within subject fibroblast lines suggested a role for HCFC1 in transcriptional regulation of MMACHC, which was further supported by the identification of consensus HCFC1 binding sites in MMACHC. Furthermore, siRNA-mediated knockdown of HCFC1 expression resulted in the coordinate downregulation of MMACHC mRNA. This X-linked disorder demonstrates a distinct disease mechanism by which transcriptional dysregulation leads to an inborn error of metabolism with a complex clinical phenotype.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Genetics, Mutation, Amino acid, Point mutation, Vitamin B12, Methylmalonic acid


ObjectiveTo investigate the cross-sectional relation between metabolic markers of vitamin B(12) status and cognitive performance, and possible effect modification by the presence of depression and apolipoprotein E (ApoE) ε4.MethodsThis is a population-based study of 1935 participants, aged 71 to 74 years, from Norway. Participants were administered a cognitive test battery, and vitamin B(12) status was assessed by measurements of plasma vitamin B(12), holotranscobalamin (holoTC), methylmalonic acid (MMA), and total homocysteine.ResultsThe geometric mean (95% confidence interval) for vitamin B(12) was 348 pM (341-354), whereas 5.9% of participants had vitamin B(12) levels lower than 200 pM. In linear regression analyses, holoTC (p = .039) and the holoTC/vitamin B(12) ratio (p = .013) were positively related, whereas MMA (p = .010) was inversely related, to global cognition, after adjustment for sex, education, ApoE status, plasma creatinine, and history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and depression. Among those positive for ApoE ε4, but not among those without the ε4 allele, plasma vitamin B(12) was positively associated with global cognition (p = .015), whereas MMA was inversely related to global cognition (p = .036) and executive function (p = .014). In participants with depression, MMA was inversely associated with global cognition (p < .001) and episodic memory (p = .001).ConclusionsAmong the well-nourished elderly, low vitamin B(12) status is associated with cognitive deficit, particularly in those with the ApoE ε4 allele or with depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Regression analysis, Linear regression, Cognition, Memory, Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Methylmalonic acid


Methylmalonic acidemia (MMA) with early-onset severe hydrocephalus is rare. In this paper, we described two cases of MMA with hydrocephalus and review the literature to elucidate the clinical features of the disease, treatment options, and follow-up results.

Concepts: Medicine, Hydrocephalus, Methylmalonic acid, Methylmalonic acidemia, Propionic acidemia