|A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®|
Multiple sulfatase deficiency
On this page:
Reviewed July 2014
What is multiple sulfatase deficiency?
Multiple sulfatase deficiency is a condition that mainly affects the brain, skin, and skeleton. Because the signs and symptoms of multiple sulfatase deficiency vary widely, researchers have split the condition into three types: neonatal, late-infantile, and juvenile.
The neonatal type is the most severe form, with signs and symptoms appearing soon after birth. Affected individuals have deterioration of tissue in the nervous system (leukodystrophy), which can contribute to movement problems, seizures, developmental delay, and slow growth. They also have dry, scaly skin (ichthyosis) and excess hair growth (hypertrichosis). Skeletal abnormalities can include abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine (scoliosis), joint stiffness, and dysostosis multiplex, which refers to a specific pattern of skeletal abnormalities seen on x-ray. Individuals with the neonatal type typically have facial features that can be described as "coarse." Affected individuals may also have hearing loss, heart malformations, and an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly). Many of the signs and symptoms of neonatal multiple sulfatase deficiency worsen over time.
The late-infantile type is the most common form of multiple sulfatase deficiency. It is characterized by normal cognitive development in early childhood followed by a progressive loss of mental abilities and movement (psychomotor regression) due to leukodystrophy or other brain abnormalities. Individuals with this form of the condition do not have as many features as those with the neonatal type, but they often have ichthyosis, skeletal abnormalities, and coarse facial features.
The juvenile type is the rarest form of multiple sulfatase deficiency. Signs and symptoms of the juvenile type appear in mid- to late childhood. Affected individuals have normal early cognitive development but then experience psychomotor regression; however, the regression in the juvenile type usually occurs at a slower rate than in the late-infantile type. Ichthyosis is also common in the juvenile type of multiple sulfatase deficiency.
Life expectancy is shortened in individuals with all types of multiple sulfatase deficiency. Typically, affected individuals survive only a few years after the signs and symptoms of the condition appear, but life expectancy varies depending on the severity of the condition and how quickly the neurological problems worsen.
How common is multiple sulfatase deficiency?
Multiple sulfatase deficiency is estimated to occur in 1 per million individuals worldwide. Approximately 50 cases have been reported in the scientific literature.
What genes are related to multiple sulfatase deficiency?
Multiple sulfatase deficiency is caused by mutations in the SUMF1 gene. This gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called formylglycine-generating enzyme (FGE). This enzyme is found in a cell structure called the endoplasmic reticulum, which is involved in protein processing and transport. The FGE enzyme modifies other enzymes called sulfatases, which aid in breaking down substances that contain chemical groups known as sulfates. These substances include a variety of sugars, fats, and hormones.
Most SUMF1 gene mutations severely reduce the function of the FGE enzyme or lead to the production of an unstable enzyme that is quickly broken down. The activity of multiple sulfatases is impaired because the FGE enzyme modifies all known sulfatase enzymes. Sulfate-containing molecules that are not broken down build up in cells, often resulting in cell death. The death of cells in particular tissues, specifically the brain, skeleton, and skin, cause many of the signs and symptoms of multiple sulfatase deficiency.
Research indicates that mutations that lead to reduced FGE enzyme function are associated with the less severe cases of the condition, whereas mutations that lead to the production of an unstable FGE enzyme tend to be associated with the more severe cases of multiple sulfatase deficiency.
Read more about the SUMF1 gene.
How do people inherit multiple sulfatase deficiency?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of multiple sulfatase deficiency?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of multiple sulfatase deficiency and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about multiple sulfatase deficiency?
You may find the following resources about multiple sulfatase deficiency helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for multiple sulfatase deficiency?
What if I still have specific questions about multiple sulfatase deficiency?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding multiple sulfatase deficiency?
autosomal ; autosomal recessive ; cell ; deficiency ; developmental delay ; endoplasmic reticulum ; enzyme ; gene ; hepatosplenomegaly ; hypertrichosis ; ichthyosis ; inherited ; joint ; juvenile ; leukodystrophy ; neonatal ; nervous system ; neurological ; protein ; psychomotor ; recessive ; regression ; scoliosis ; sulfate ; syndrome ; tissue
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (9 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.