In most instances, marked deficiency of the purine catabolic enzyme adenosine deaminase results in lymphopenia and severe combined immunodeficiency disease. Over a 2-yr period, we studied a white male child with markedly deficient erythrocyte and lymphocyte adenosine deaminase activity and normal immune function. We have documented that (a) adenosine deaminase activity and immunoreactive protein are undetectable in erythrocytes, 0.9% of normal in lymphocytes, 4% in cultured lymphoblasts, and 14% in skin fibroblasts; (b) plasma adenosine and deoxyadenosine levels are undetectable and deoxy ATP levels are only slightly elevated in lymphocytes and in erythrocytes; (c) no defect in deoxyadenosine metabolism is present in the proband's cultured lymphoblasts; (d) lymphoblast adenosine deaminase has normal enzyme kinetics, absolute specific activity, S20,w, pH optimum, and heat stability; and (e) the proband's adenosine deaminase exhibits a normal apparent subunit molecular weight but an abnormal isoelectric pH. In contrast to the three other adenosine deaminase-deficient healthy subjects who have been described, the proband is unique in demonstrating an acidic, heat-stable protein mutation of the enzyme that is associated with less than 1% lymphocyte adenosine deaminase activity. Residual adenosine deaminase activity in tissues other than lymphocytes may suffice to metabolize the otherwise lymphotoxic enzyme substrate(s) and account for the preservation of normal immune function.
P E Daddona, B S Mitchell, H J Meuwissen, B L Davidson, J M Wilson, C A Koller