Modeling the cognitive effects of diet discontinuation in adults with phenylketonuria (PKU) using pegvaliase therapy in PAH-deficient mice

Shelley R. Winn, Sandra Dudley, Tanja Scherer, Nicole Rimann, Beat Thöny, Sydney Boutros, Destine Krenik, Jacob Raber, Cary O. Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Existing phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH)-deficient mice strains are useful models of untreated or late-treated human phenylketonuria (PKU), as most contemporary therapies can only be initiated after weaning and the pups have already suffered irreversible consequences of chronic hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) during early brain development. Therefore, we sought to evaluate whether enzyme substitution therapy with pegvaliase initiated near birth and administered repetitively to C57Bl/6-Pahenu2/enu2 mice would prevent HPA-related behavioral and cognitive deficits and form a model for early-treated PKU. The main results of three reported experiments are: 1) lifelong weekly pegvaliase treatment prevented the cognitive deficits associated with HPA in contrast to persisting deficits in mice treated with pegvaliase only as adults. 2) Cognitive deficits reappear in mice treated with weekly pegvaliase from birth but in which pegvaliase is discontinued at 3 months age. 3) Twice weekly pegvaliase injection also prevented cognitive deficits but again cognitive deficits emerged in early-treated animals following discontinuation of pegvaliase treatment during adulthood, particularly in females. In all studies, pegvaliase treatment was associated with complete correction of brain monoamine neurotransmitter content and with improved overall growth of the mice as measured by body weight. Mean total brain weight however remained low in all PAH deficient mice regardless of treatment. Application of enzyme substitution therapy with pegvaliase, initiated near birth and continued into adulthood, to PAH-deficient Pahenu2/enu2 mice models contemporary early-treated human PKU. This model will be useful for exploring the differential pathophysiologic effects of HPA at different developmental stages of the murine brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-64
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Dopamine
  • Hyperphenylalaninemia
  • Pegvaliase
  • Phenylalanine hydroxylase
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan
  • Tryptophan hydroxylase
  • Tyrosine
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology


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