Enzyme - Involvement in Disease

Involvement in Disease

Since the tight control of enzyme activity is essential for homeostasis, any malfunction (mutation, overproduction, underproduction or deletion) of a single critical enzyme can lead to a genetic disease. The importance of enzymes is shown by the fact that a lethal illness can be caused by the malfunction of just one type of enzyme out of the thousands of types present in our bodies.

One example is the most common type of phenylketonuria. A mutation of a single amino acid in the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, which catalyzes the first step in the degradation of phenylalanine, results in build-up of phenylalanine and related products. This can lead to mental retardation if the disease is untreated.

Another example of enzyme deficiency is pseudocholinesterase, in which there is slow metabolic degradation of exogenous choline.

Another example is when germline mutations in genes coding for DNA repair enzymes cause hereditary cancer syndromes such as xeroderma pigmentosum. Defects in these enzymes cause cancer since the body is less able to repair mutations in the genome. This causes a slow accumulation of mutations and results in the development of many types of cancer in the sufferer.

Oral administration of enzymes can be used to treat several diseases (e.g. pancreatic insufficiency and lactose intolerance). Since enzymes are proteins themselves they are potentially subject to inactivation and digestion in the gastrointestinal environment. Therefore a non-invasive imaging assay was developed to monitor gastrointestinal activity of exogenous enzymes (prolyl endopeptidase as potential adjuvant therapy for celiac disease) in vivo.

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