Response of phenylketonuria to tetrahydrobiopterin

Kimberlee Michals-Matalon, Gita Bhatia, Flemming Guttler, Stephen K. Tyring, Reuben Matalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


A favorable response, indicated by decline of blood phenylalanine (Phe) in patients with phenylketonuria (PKU), to orally administered 6-R-L-erythro-5, 6, 7, 8-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) has been reported in many countries following the first publication in 1999. In this review, we describe the experience in the United States with PKU patients and their response to BH4. A significant response to BH4 is arbitrarily considered as a decrease of 30% or greater of blood Phe concentration 24 h after administration of BH4. In our studies, 18 of 37 patients with PKU (49%) responded to oral BH4 by >30% decrease in blood Phe concentration. Four PKU patients responded with a decrease of blood Phe concentration between 17.3 and 26.3%. It is suggested that patients with sufficient response to BH4 are candidates who will benefit from BH4 as it becomes available for PKU management. In a separate trial, 20 patients with PKU were screened with ascending doses of BH4: 10, 20, and 40 mg/kg. A favorable response was found in 10 subjects (50%) after 10 mg/kg BH4 and 14 subjects (70%) after 20 mg/kg BH4. There was no additional advantage to 40mg/kg BH4. A 1-wk trial with 10 and 20 mg/kg BH4 in the same 20 patients showed blood Phe concentrations lowest after 7 d of BH4. The BH4-responsive patients were genotyped and most were compound heterozygotes with 1 mild mutation on 1 allele, responsible for the increase of the residual activity of Phe hydroxylase when BH4 was added. Individuals with the same genotype exhibit different responses upon administration of BH4, attributed to epigenetic factors, such as the metabolic makeup of the individual. Patients with PKU, regardless of their genotype or classification, need to be screened for response to BH4. The majority of patients are identified by 10 mg/kg BH4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1564S-1567S
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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