At the intersection of toxicology, psychiatry, and genetics: A diagnosis of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency

Harold Andrew Sloas, Thomas C. Ence, Donna R. Mendez, Andrea T. Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency is a genetic disorder involving a mutation of the ornithine transcarbamylase gene, located on the short arm of the X chromosome (Xp21.1). This makes the expression of the gene most common in homozygous males, but heterozygous females can also be affected and may be more likely to suffer from serious morbidity. Most males present early in the neonatal period with more devastating outcomes than their female counterparts. Up to 34% will present in the first 30 days of life (J Pediatr 2001;138:S30). Females often have partially functioning mitochondria due to uneven distribution of the mutant gene secondary to lyonization ("X-chromosome Inactivation". Genetics Home Reference, 2012). Occasionally, symptomatic females may not even present until they are placed under metabolic stress such as a severe illness, fasting, pregnancy, or new medication (Roth KS, Steiner RD. "Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency". EMedicine, 2012). The urea cycle is the body's primary tool for the disposal of excess nitrogen, which is generated by the routine metabolism of proteins and amino acids. Mitochondrial dysfunction impairs urea production and result in hyperammonemia (Semin Neonatol 2002;7:27). The sine qua non among all degrees of OTC deficiency at presentation is hyperammonemia. As in adults, children will have similar symptoms of encephalopathy, but this may be expressed differently depending on the child's developmental level. We present an unusual case of OTC deficiency in an older child with undifferentiated symptoms of an anticholinergic toxidrome, liver failure, iron overdose, and mushroom poisoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1420.e5-1420.e6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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