Urea-cycle disorders as a paradigm for inborn errors of hepatocyte metabolism

Document Type



Emergency Medicine


Urea-cycle disorders (UCDs) are a group of inborn errors of hepatocyte metabolism that are caused by the loss of enzymes involved in the process of transferring nitrogen from ammonia to urea, via the urea cycle (UC). Recent genetic analyses of inherited disorders that present with hyperammonemia demonstrate the function of cellular transporters that regulate the availability of UC intermediates. The regulation of UC intermediates, such as arginine, could have far reaching implications on nitric-oxide synthesis and vascular tone. Hence, each UCD and UC-related disorder constitutes a unique gene-nutrient interaction that is crucial for postnatal homeostasis. Recent advances in the diagnosis and management of UCDs include the application of in vivo metabolic-flux measurements. Cumulative morbidity is still high despite dietary and pharmacological therapies and, hence, both cell and gene therapies are being pursued as possible long-term corrective treatments. Although gene-replacement therapy has suffered recent clinical setbacks, new vector developments offer hope for the treatment of cell-autonomous defects of hepatocyte metabolism.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Trends in Molecular Medicine