Mol Genet Metab 2018 11 27;125(3):193-199. Epub 2018 Aug 27.
Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States; Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, United States.
Osteopenia is observed in some patients affected by phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) deficient phenylketonuria (PKU). Bone density studies, in diverse PKU patient cohorts, have demonstrated bone disease is neither fully penetrant nor uniform in bone density loss. Biochemical assessment has generated a muddled perspective regarding mechanisms of the PKU bone phenotype where the participation of hyperphenylalaninemia remains unresolved. Osteopenia is realized in the Pah mouse model of classical PKU; although, characterization is incomplete. We characterized the Pah bone phenotype and assessed the effect of hyperphenylalaninemia on bone differentiation. Employing Pah and control animals, cytology, static and dynamic histomorphometry, and biochemistry were applied to further characterize the bone phenotype. These investigations demonstrate Pah bone density is decreased 33% relative to C57BL/6; bone volume/total volume was similarly decreased; trabecular thickness was unchanged while increased trabecular spacing was observed. Dynamic histomorphometry demonstrated a 25% decrease in mineral apposition. Biochemically, control and PKU animals have similar plasma cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and 25-hydroxyvitamin D. PKU animals show moderately increased plasma parathyroid hormone while plasma calcium and phosphate are reduced. These data are consistent with a mineralization defect. The effect of hyperphenylalaninemia on bone maturation was assessed in vitro employing bone-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their differentiation into bone. Using standard culture conditions, PAH deficient MSCs differentiate into bone as assessed by in situ alkaline phosphatase activity and mineral staining. However, PAH deficient MSCs cultured in 1200 μM PHE (metric defining classical PKU) show significantly reduced mineralization. These data are the first biological evidence demonstrating a negative impact of hyperphenylalaninemia upon bone maturation. In PAH deficient MSCs, expression of Col1A1 and Rankl are suppressed by hyperphenylalaninemia consistent with reduced bone formation and bone turnover. Osteopenia is intrinsic to PKU pathology in untreated Pah animals and our data suggests PHE toxicity participates by inhibiting mineralization in the course of MSC bone differentiation.