In Gaucher disease (glucosylceramide lipidosis), deficiency of glucocerebrosidase causes pathological storage of glucosylceramide, particularly in the spleen. A comparative biochemical and immunological analysis has therefore been made of glucocerebrosidase in spleens from normal subjects (n = 4) and from Gaucher disease patients with non-neuronopathic (n = 5) and neuronopathic (n = 5) phenotypes. The spleens from all Gaucher disease patients showed markedly decreased glucocerebrosidase activity. Discrimination of different phenotypes of Gaucher disease was not possible on the basis of the level of residual enzyme activity, or by measurements, using the immunopurified enzyme, of kinetic constants, pI or molecular mass forms. A severe decrease was found in the specific activity of glucocerebrosidase purified to homogeneity from the spleen of a patient with the non-neuronopathic phenotype of Gaucher disease, as compared with that of the enzyme purified from the spleen of a normal subject. This finding was confirmed by an immunological method developed for accurate assessment of the relative enzyme activity per molecule of glucocerebrosidase protein. The method revealed that the residual enzyme in the spleens of all investigated patients with a non-neuronopathic course of Gaucher disease had a more than 7-fold decreased activity of glucocerebrosidase (measured in the presence of taurocholate) per molecule of enzyme, and that the concentration of glucocerebrosidase molecules in the spleens of these patients was near normal. Observations made with immunoblotting experiments were consistent with these findings. In contrast, in the spleens of patients with neuronopathic phenotypes of Gaucher disease, the concentration of glucocerebrosidase molecules was severely decreased.

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