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Reviewed December 2013

What is the official name of the ASAH1 gene?

The official name of this gene is “N-acylsphingosine amidohydrolase (acid ceramidase) 1.”

ASAH1 is the gene's official symbol. The ASAH1 gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the ASAH1 gene?

The ASAH1 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called acid ceramidase. This enzyme is found in lysosomes, which are cell compartments that digest and recycle materials. Within lysosomes, acid ceramidase breaks down fats called ceramides. Ceramides are typically found within the membranes that surround cells and play a role in regulating cell maturation (differentiation), growth and division of cells (proliferation), and controlled cell death (apoptosis). Additionally, ceramides are a component of a fatty substance called myelin that insulates and protects nerve cells. When ceramides need to be replaced, they travel to lysosomes where acid ceramidase breaks them down into a fat called sphingosine and a fatty acid. These two breakdown products are recycled to create new ceramides for the body to use.

How are changes in the ASAH1 gene related to health conditions?

Farber lipogranulomatosis - caused by mutations in the ASAH1 gene

At least 20 mutations in the ASAH1 gene have been found to cause Farber lipogranulomatosis. This condition is characterized by the buildup of fats (lipids) in cells throughout the body, particularly around the joints. Most of the mutations associated with Farber lipogranulomatosis change a single protein building block (amino acid) in acid ceramidase, which severely reduces the activity of the enzyme, typically to less than one-tenth of normal. As a result, the enzyme cannot break down ceramides properly and they build up in the lysosomes of various cells, including in the lungs, liver, muscles, brain, cartilage, and bone. It is unclear how an accumulation of ceramides impairs the normal functioning of cells, but these damaged cells lead to the voice, skin, and joint problems that are characteristic of Farber lipogranulomatosis. Ceramides influence various cell functions, and it is likely that abnormal regulation of these processes also contributes to the features of this condition.

spinal muscular atrophy with progressive myoclonic epilepsy - caused by mutations in the ASAH1 gene

At least four mutations in the ASAH1 gene have been found to cause spinal muscular atrophy with progressive myoclonic epilepsy (SMA-PME). This condition is characterized by muscle weakness and wasting (atrophy) and a combination of seizures and uncontrollable muscle jerks (myoclonic epilepsy) that begin in childhood. The ASAH1 gene mutations that cause SMA-PME result in a reduction of acid ceramidase activity to a level less than one-third of normal. The decrease in acid ceramidase activity leads to inefficient breakdown of ceramides and impaired production of its breakdown products sphingosine and fatty acids. The increase in ceramides and reduction in sphingosine and fatty acids likely play a role in the development of the features of SMA-PME, but the exact mechanism is unknown.

The reduction in acid ceramidase activity associated with SMA-PME is less than what occurs in another condition called Farber lipogranulomatosis (described above). Researchers suspect that the small amount of enzyme activity in SMA-PME allows some ceramide breakdown to occur, so the ceramides do not accumulate and damage cells as extensively as seen in Farber lipogranulomatosis. However, because SMA-PME is so rare, the effects of the enzyme changes are still unclear.

Where is the ASAH1 gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 8p22

Molecular Location on chromosome 8: base pairs 18,056,416 to 18,084,998

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The ASAH1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 8 at position 22.

The ASAH1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 8 at position 22.

More precisely, the ASAH1 gene is located from base pair 18,056,416 to base pair 18,084,998 on chromosome 8.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about ASAH1?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about ASAH1 helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the ASAH1 gene or gene products?

  • AC
  • acylsphingosine deacylase
  • ASAH
  • FLJ21558
  • FLJ22079
  • PHP
  • PHP32

Where can I find general information about genes?

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 ASAH1?

acids ; amino acid ; apoptosis ; atrophy ; breakdown ; cartilage ; cell ; ceramides ; differentiation ; enzyme ; epilepsy ; fatty acids ; gene ; joint ; lipogranulomatosis ; proliferation ; protein ; wasting

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (7 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.

Reviewed: December 2013
Published: February 8, 2016