DPD (dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase) constitutes the first step of the pyrimidine degradation pathway, in which the pyrimidine bases uracil and thymine are catabolized to β-alanine and the R-enantiomer of β-AIB (β-aminoisobutyric acid) respectively. The S-enantiomer of β-AIB is predominantly derived from the catabolism of valine. It has been suggested that an altered homoeostasis of β-alanine underlies some of the clinical abnormalities encountered in patients with a DPD deficiency. In the present study, we demonstrated that only a slightly decreased concentration of β-alanine was present in the urine and plasma, whereas normal levels of β-alanine were present in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with a DPD deficiency. Therefore the metabolism of β-alanine-containing peptides, such as carnosine, may be an important factor involved in the homoeostasis of β-alanine in patients with DPD deficiency. The mean concentration of β-AIB was approx. 2–3-fold lower in cerebrospinal fluid and urine of patients with a DPD deficiency, when compared with controls. In contrast, strongly decreased levels (10-fold) of β-AIB were present in the plasma of DPD patients. Our results demonstrate that, under pathological conditions, the catabolism of valine can result in the production of significant amounts of β-AIB. Furthermore, the observation that the R-enantiomer of β-AIB is abundantly present in the urine of DPD patients suggests that significant cross-over exists between the thymine and valine catabolic pathways.

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