Glutathione synthetase deficiency is a disorder that prevents the production of an important molecule called glutathione. Glutathione helps prevent damage to cells by neutralizing harmful molecules generated during energy production. Glutathione also plays a role in processing medications and cancer-causing compounds (carcinogens), and building DNA, proteins, and other important cellular components.
Glutathione synthetase deficiency can be classified into three types: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild glutathione synthetase deficiency usually results in the destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia). In addition, affected individuals may release large amounts of a compound called 5-oxoproline in their urine (5-oxoprolinuria). This compound builds up when glutathione is not processed correctly in cells.
Individuals with moderate glutathione synthetase deficiency may experience symptoms beginning shortly after birth including hemolytic anemia, 5-oxoprolinuria, and elevated acidity in the blood and tissues (metabolic acidosis).
In addition to the features present in moderate glutathione synthetase deficiency, individuals affected by the severe form of this disorder may experience neurological symptoms. These problems may include seizures; a generalized slowing down of physical reactions, movements, and speech (psychomotor retardation); intellectual disability; and a loss of coordination (ataxia). Some people with severe glutathione synthetase deficiency also develop recurrent bacterial infections.