Hereditary angioedema (HAE), an auto-somal dominant disorder characterized by attacks of episodic edema is associated with decreased functional levels of the C1 esterase inhibitor. Approximately 85% of patients have lowered antigen levels of a normal inhibitor protein. 15% of patients have normal or elevated antigenic levels of functionless protein. We have examined the response to danazol therapy of patients with the variant HAE phenotypes possessing the abnormal protein in an effort to determine if these patients possess a normal structural C1 inhibitor allele. Four patients with a variant HAE phenotype were treated successfully with danazol. In two patients, distinguished by the presence of a functionless, albumin-bound, C1 inhibitor (phenotype 2), phenotypic analysis of the danazol response by bidirectional immunoelectrophoresis revealed the appearance of the normal C1 inhibitor gene product during danazol therapy. This relatively cathodal C1 inhibitor peak appears in conjunction with the development of nearly normal functional activity. All of the functional C1 inhibitory activity which appeared in the phenotype 2 treatment serum was associated with the electrophoretically normal inhibitor. This normal protein could be separated from the functionless inhibitor protein by immunoadsorption and molecular sieve chromatography. Danazol therapy of the two patients with an electrophoretically normal, functionless C1 inhibitor (phenotype 3) also resulted in a clinical remission associated with development of a significant increment in functional serum C1 inhibitory activity and C1 inhibitor protein. These findings demonstrate that these two HAE phenotypic variants are heterozygous for the normal serum C1 inhibitor, a finding which was not apparent before phenotypic analysis of this serum during danazol therapy. These data provide strong evidence for a basic similarity between the common form of HAE and its phenotypic variants. They also suggest that a structural gene lesion may result in the abnormalities of serum C1 inhibitor function and disease expression in all three of these HAE phenotypes.
James E. Gadek, Stephen W. Hosea, Jeffrey A. Gelfand, Michael M. Frank