Triosephosphate isomerase (TPI) deficiency is a unique glycolytic enzymopathy coupled with neurodegeneration. Two Hungarian compound heterozygote brothers inherited the same TPI mutations (F240L and E145Stop), but only the younger one suffers from neurodegeneration. In the present study, we determined the kinetic parameters of key glycolytic enzymes including the mutant TPI for rational modelling of erythrocyte glycolysis. We found that a low TPI activity in the mutant cells (lower than predicted from the protein level and specific activity of the purified recombinant enzyme) is coupled with an increase in the activities of glycolytic kinases. The modelling rendered it possible to establish the steady-state flux of the glycolysis and metabolite concentrations, which was not possible experimentally due to the inactivation of the mutant TPI and other enzymes during the pre-steady state. Our results showed that the flux was 2.5-fold higher and the concentration of DHAP (dihydroxyacetone phosphate) and fructose 1,6-bisphosphate increased 40- and 5-fold respectively in the erythrocytes of the patient compared with the control. Although the rapid equilibration of triosephosphates is not achieved, the energy state of the cells is not ‘sick’ due to the activation of key regulatory enzymes. In lymphocytes of the two brothers, the TPI activity was also lower (20%) than that of controls; however, the remaining activity was high enough to maintain the rapid equilibration of triosephosphates; consequently, no accumulation of DHAP occurs, as judged by our experimental and computational data. Interestingly, we found significant differences in the mRNA levels of the brothers for TPI and some other, apparently unrelated, proteins. One of them is the prolyl oligopeptidase, the activity decrease of which has been reported in well-characterized neurodegenerative diseases. We found that the peptidase activity of the affected brother was reduced by 30% compared with that of his neurologically intact brother.

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