Most patients with the autosomal recessive disease primary hyperoxaluria type 1 (PH1) have a complete deficiency of alanine/glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT) enzyme activity and immunoreactive protein. However a few possess significant residual activity and protein. In normal human liver, AGT is entirely peroxisomal, whereas it is entirely mitochondrial in carnivores, and both peroxisomal and mitochondrial in rodents. Using the techniques of isopycnic sucrose and Percoll density gradient centrifugation and quantitative protein A-gold immunoelectron microscopy, we have found that in two PH1 patients, possessing 9 and 27% residual AGT activity, both the enzyme activity and immunoreactive protein were largely mitochondrial and not peroxisomal. In addition, these individuals were more severely affected than expected from the levels of their residual AGT activity. In these patients, the PH1 appears to be due, at least in part, to a unique trafficking defect, in which peroxisomal AGT is diverted to the mitochondria. To our knowledge, this is the first example of a genetic disease caused by such interorganellar rerouting.

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