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Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) is a general term for a number of inherited diseases that are caused by the accumulation of mucopolysaccharides, resulting in problems with an individual's development. With each condition, mucopolysaccharides accumulate in the cells and tissues of the body because of a deficiency of a specific enzyme. The specific enzyme that is deficient or absent is what distinguishes one type of MPS from another. However, before these enzymes were identified, the MPS disorders were diagnosed by the signs and symptoms that an individual expressed. The discovery of these enzymes resulted in a reclassification of some of the MPS disorders. These conditions are often referred to as MPS I, MPS II, MPS III, MPS IV, MPS VI, MPS VII, and MPS IX. However, these conditions are also referred to by their original names, which are Hurler, Hurler-Scheie, Scheie (all MPS I), Hunter (MPS II), Sanfilippo (MPS III), Morquio (MPS IV), Maroteaux-Lamy (MPS VI), Sly (MPS VII), and Hyaluronidase deficiency (MPS IX).


Mucopolysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules that are essential for building the bones, cartilage, skin, tendons, and other tissues in the body. Normally, the human body continuously breaks down and builds mucopolysaccharides. Another name for mucopolysaccharides is glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). There are many different types of GAGs and specific GAGs are unable to be broken down in each of the MPS conditions. There are several enzymes involved in breaking down each GAG and a deficiency or absence of any of the essential enzymes can cause the GAG to not be broken down completely and result in its accumulation in the tissues and organs in the body. In some MPS conditions, in addition to the GAG being stored in the body, some of the incompletely broken down GAGs can leave the body via the urine. When too much GAG is stored, organs and tissues can be damaged or not function properly.

Genetic profile

Except for MPS II, the MPS conditions are inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. MPS conditions occur when both of an individual's genes that produce the specific enzyme contain a mutation, causing them to not work properly. When both genes do not work properly, either none or a reduced amount of the enzyme is produced. An individual with an autosomal recessive condition inherits one of those non-working genes from each parent. These parents are called "carriers" of the condition. When two people are known carriers for an autosomal recessive condition, they have a 25% chance with each pregnancy to have a child affected with the disease. Some individuals with MPS do have children of their own. Children of parents who have an autosomal recessive condition are all carriers of that condition. These children are not at risk to develop the condition unless the other parent is a carrier or affected with the same autosomal recessive condition.
Unlike the other MPS conditions, MPS II is inherited in an X-linked recessive manner. This means that the gene causing the condition is located on the X chromosome, one of the two sex chromosomes. Since a male has only one X chromosome, he will have the disease if the X chromosome inherited from his mother carries the defective gene. Females, because they have two X chromosomes, are called "carriers" of the condition if only one of their X chromosomes has the gene that causes the condition, while the other X chromosome does not.

Causes and symptoms

Each type of MPS is caused by a deficiency of one of the enzymes involved in breaking down GAGs. It is the accumulation of the GAGs in the tissues and organs in the body that cause the wide array of symptoms characteristic of the MPS conditions. The accumulating material is stored in cellular structures called lysosomes, and these disorders are also known as lysosomal storage diseases.

Mps i

MPS I is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme alpha-L-iduronidase. Three conditions, Hurler, Hurler-Scheie, and Scheie syndromes, all are caused by a deficiency of this enzyme. Initially, these three conditions were felt to be separate because each were associated with different physical symptoms and prognoses. However, once the underlying cause of these conditions was identified, it was realized that these three conditions were all variants of the same disorder. The gene involved with MPS I is located on chromosome 4p16.3.
MPS I H (HURLER SYNDROME). It has been estimated that approximately one baby in 100,000 will be born with Hurler syndrome. Individuals with Hurler syndrome tend to have the most severe form of MPS I. Symptoms of Hurler syndrome are often evident within the first year or two after birth. Often these infants begin to develop as expected, but then reach a point where they begin to loose the skills that they have learned. Many of these infants may initially grow faster than expected, but their growth slows and typically stops by age three. Facial features also begin to appear "coarse." They develop a short nose, flatter face, thicker skin, and a protruding tongue. Additionally, their heads become larger and they develop more hair on their bodies with the hair becoming coarser. Their bones are also affected, with these children usually developing joint contractures (stiff joints), kyphosis (a specific type of curve to the spine), and broad hands with short fingers. Many of these children experience breathing difficulties, and respiratory infections are common. Other common problems include heart valve dysfunction, thickening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), enlarged spleen and liver, clouding of the cornea, hearing loss, and carpal tunnel syndrome. These children typically do not live past age 12.
MPS I H/S (HURLER-SCHEIE SYNDROME). Hurler-Scheie syndrome is felt to be the intermediate form of MPS I, meaning that the symptoms are not as severe as those in individuals who have MPS I H but not as mild as those in MPS I S. Approximately one baby in 115,000 will be born with Hurler-Scheie syndrome. These individuals tend to be shorter than expected, and they can have normal intelligence, however, some individuals with MPS I H/S will experience learning difficulties. These individuals may develop some of the same physical features as those with Hurler syndrome, but usually they are not as severe. The prognosis for children with MPS I H/S is variable with some individuals dying during childhood, while others living to adulthood.
MPS I S (SCHEIE SYNDROME). Scheie syndrome is considered the mild form of MPS I. It is estimated that approximately one baby in 500,000 will be born with Scheie syndrome. Individuals with MPS I S usually have normal intelligence, but there have been some reports of individuals with MPS I S developing psychiatric problems. Common physical problems include corneal clouding, heart abnormalities, and orthopedic difficulties involving their hands and back. Individuals with MPS I S do not develop the facial features seen with MPS I H and usually these individuals have a normal life span.

Mps ii (hunter syndrome)

Hunter syndrome is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme iduronate-2-sulphatase. All individuals with Hunter syndrome are male, because the gene that causes the condition is located on the X chromosome, specifically Xq28. Like many MPS conditions, Hunter syndrome is divided into two groups, mild and severe. It has been estimated that approximately 1 in 110,000 males are born with Hunter syndrome, with the severe form being three times more common than the mild form. The severe form is felt to be associated with progressive mental retardation and physical disability, with most individuals dying before age 15. In the milder form, most of these individuals live to adulthood and have normal intelligence or only mild mental impairments. Males with the mild form of Hunter syndrome develop physical differences similar to the males with the severe form, but not as quickly. Men with mild Hunter syndrome can have a normal life span and some have had children. Most males with Hunter syndrome develop joint stiffness, chronic diarrhea, enlarged liver and spleen, heart valve problems, hearing loss, kyphosis, and tend to be shorter than expected. These symptoms tend to progress at a different rate depending on if an individual has the mild or severe form of MPS II.

Mps iii (sanfilippo syndrome)

MPS III, like the other MPS conditions, was initially diagnosed by the individual having certain physical characteristics. It was later discovered that the physical symptoms associated with Sanfilippo syndrome could be caused by a deficiency in one of four enzymes. Each type of MPS III is now subdivided into four groups, labeled A-D, based on the specific enzyme that is deficient. All four of these enzymes are involved in breaking down the same GAG, heparan sulfate. Heparan sulfate is mainly found in the central nervous system and accumulates in the brain when it cannot be broken down because one of those four enzymes are deficient or missing.
MPS III is a variable condition with symptoms beginning to appear between ages two and six years of age. Because of the accumulation of heparan sulfate in the central nervous system, the central nervous system is severely affected. In MPS III, signs that the central nervous system is degenerating usually are evident in most individuals between ages six and 10. Many children with MPS III will develop seizures, sleeplessness, thicker skin, joint contractures, enlarged tongues, cardiomyopathy, behavior problems, and mental retardation. The life expectancy in MPS III is also variable. On average, individuals with MPS III live until they are teenagers, with some living longer and others not that long.
MPS IIIA (SANFILIPPO SYNDROME TYPE A). MPS IIIA is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme heparan N-sulfatase. Type IIIA is felt to be the most severe of the four types, in which symptoms appear and death occurs at an earlier age. A study in British Columbia estimated that one in 324, 617 live births are born with MPS IIIA. MPS IIIA is the most common of the four types in Northwestern Europe. The gene that causes MPS IIIA is located on the long arm of chromosome 17 (location 17q25).
MPS IIIB (SANFILIPPO SYNDROME TYPE B). MPS IIIB is due to a deficiency in N-acetyl-alpha-D-glucosaminidase (NAG). This type of MPS III is not felt to be as severe as Type IIIA and the characteristics vary. Type IIIB is the most common of the four in southeastern Europe. The gene associated with MPS IIIB is also located on the long arm of chromosome 17 (location 17q21).
MPS IIIC (SANFILIPPO SYNDROME TYPE C). A deficiency in the enzyme acetyl-CoA-alpha-glucosaminide acetyltransferase causes MPS IIIC. This is considered a rare form of MPS III. The gene involved in MPS IIIC is believed to be located on chromosome 14.
MPS IIID (SANFILIPPO SYNDROME TYPE D). MPS IIID is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme N-acetylglucosamine-6-sulfatase. This form of MPS III is also rare. The gene involved in MPS IIID is located on the long arm of chromosome 12 (location 12q14).

Mps iv (morquio syndrome)

As with several of the MPS disorders, Morquio syndrome was diagnosed by the presence of particular signs and symptoms. However, it is now known that the deficiency of two different enzymes can cause the characteristics of MPS IV. These two types of MPS IV are called MPS IV A and MPS IV B. MPS IV is also variable in its severity. The intelligence of individuals with MPS IV is often completely normal. In individuals with a severe form, skeletal abnormalities can be extreme and include dwarfism, kyphosis (backward-curved spine), prominent breastbone, flat feet, and knock-knees. One of the earliest symptoms seen in this condition usually is a difference in the way the child walks. In individuals with a mild form of MPS IV, limb stiffness, and joint pain are the primary symptoms. MPS IV is one of the rarest MPS disorders, with approximately one baby in 300,000 born with this condition.
MPS IV A (MORQUIO SYNDROME TYPE A). MPS IV A is the "classic" or the severe form of the condition and is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme galactosa-mine-6-sulphatase. The gene involved with MPS IV A is located on the long arm of chromosome 16 (location 16q24.3).
MPS IV B (MORQUIO SYNDROME TYPE B). MPS IV B is considered the milder form of the condition. The enzyme, beta-galactosidase, is deficient in MPS IV B. The location of the gene that produces beta-galactosidase is located on the short arm of chromosome 3 (location 3p21).

Mps vi (maroteaux-lamy syndrome)

MPS VI, which is another rare form of MPS, is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme N-acetylglucosa-mine-4-sulphatase. This condition is also variable; individuals may have a mild or severe form of the condition. Typically, the nervous system or intelligence of an individual with MPS VI is not affected. Individuals with a more severe form of MPS VI can have airway obstruction, develop hydrocephalus (extra fluid accumulating in the brain) and have bone changes. Additionally, individuals with a severe form of MPS VI are more likely to die while in their teens. With a milder form of the condition, individuals tend to be shorter than expected for their age, develop corneal clouding, and live longer. The gene involved in MPS VI is believed to be located on the long arm of chromosome 5 (approximate location 5q11-13).

Mps vii (sly syndrome)

MPS VII is an extremely rare form of MPS and is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme beta-glucuronidase. It is also highly variable, but symptoms are generally similar to those seen in individuals with Hurler syndrome. The gene that causes MPS VII is located on the long arm of chromosome 7 (location 7q21).

Mps ix (hyaluronidase deficiency)

MPS IX is a condition that was first described in 1996 and has been grouped with the other MPS conditions by some researchers. MPS IX is caused by the deficiency of the enzyme hyaluronidase. In the few individuals described with this condition, the symptoms are variable, but some develop soft-tissue masses (growths under the skin). Also, these individuals are shorter than expected for their age. The gene involved in MPS IX is believed to be located on the short arm of chromosome 3 (possibly 3p21.3-21.2)
Many individuals with an MPS condition have problems with airway constriction. This constriction may be so serious as to create significant difficulties in administering general anesthesia. Therefore, it is recommended that surgical procedures be performed under local anesthesia whenever possible.


While a diagnosis for each type of MPS can be made on the basis of the physical signs described above, several of the conditions have similar features. Therefore, enzyme analysis is used to determine the specific MPS disorder. Enzyme analysis usually cannot accurately determine if an individual is a carrier for a MPS condition. This is because the enzyme levels in individuals who are not carriers overlaps the enzyme levels seen in those individuals who are carrier for a MPS. With many of the MPS conditions, several mutations have been found in each gene involved that can cause symptoms of each condition. If the specific mutation is known in a family, DNA analysis may be possible.
Once a couple has had a child with an MPS condition, prenatal diagnosis is available to them to help determine if a fetus is affected with the same MPS as their other child. This can be accomplished through testing samples using procedures such as an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Each of these procedures has its own risks, benefits, and limitations.


There is no cure for mucopolysaccharidosis. There are several types of experimental therapies that are being investigated. Typically, treatment involves trying to relieve some of the symptoms. For MPS I and VI, bone marrow transplantation has been attempted as a treatment option. In those conditions, bone marrow transplantation has sometimes been found to help slow down the progression or reverse some of symptoms of the disorder in some children. The benefits of a bone marrow transplantation are more likely to be noticed when performed on children under two years of age. However it is not certain that a bone marrow transplant can prevent further damage to certain organs and tissues, including the brain. Furthermore, bone marrow transplantation is not felt to be helpful in some MPS disorders and there are risks, benefits, and limitations with this procedure. In 2000, ten individuals with MPS I received recombinant human alpha-L-iduronidase every week for one year. Those individuals showed an improvement with some of their symptoms. Additionally, there is ongoing research involving gene replacement therapy (the insertion of normal copies of a gene into the cells of patients whose gene copies are defective).


No specific preventive measures are available for genetic diseases of this type. For some of the MPS diseases, biochemical tests are available that will identify healthy individuals who are carriers of the defective gene, allowing them to make informed reproductive decisions. There is also the availability of prenatal diagnosis for all MPS disease to detect affected fetuses.

Key terms

Cardiomyopathy — A thickening of the heart muscle.
Enzyme — A protein that catalyzes a biochemical reaction or change without changing its own structure or function.
Joint contractures — Stiffness of the joints that prevents full extension.
Kyphosis — An abnormal outward curvature of the spine, with a hump at the upper back.
Lysosome — Membrane-enclosed compartment in cells, containing many hydrolytic enzymes; where large molecules and cellular components are broken down.
Mucopolysaccharide — A complex molecule made of smaller sugar molecules strung together to form a chain. Found in mucous secretions and intercellular spaces.
Recessive gene — A type of gene that is not expressed as a trait unless inherited by both parents.
X-linked gene — A gene carried on the X chromosome, one of the two sex chromosomes.



Caillud, C., and L. Poenaru. "Gene Therapy in Lysosomal Diseases." Biomed & Pharmacother 54 (2000): 505-512.
Kakkis, E. D., et al. "Enzyme-Replacement Therapy in Mucopolysaccharidosis I." The New England Journal of Medicine 344 (2001): 182-188.


Canadian Society for Mucopolysaccharide and Related Diseases. PO Box 64714, Unionville, ONT L3R-OM9. Canada (905) 479-8701 or (800) 667-1846.
Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases. The Quadrangle, Crewe Hall, Weston Rd., Crewe, Cheshire, CW1-6UR. UK 127 025 0221. Fax: 0870-7700-327.
Metabolic Information Network. PO Box 670847, Dallas, TX 75367-0847. (214) 696-2188 or (800) 945-2188.
National MPS Society. 102 Aspen Dr., Downingtown, PA 19335. (610) 942-0100. Fax: (610) 942-7188. 〈〉.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). PO Box 8923, New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923. (203) 746-6518 or (800) 999-6673. Fax: (203) 746-6481.
Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases. 46 Woodside Rd., Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP6 6AJ. UK +44 (01494) 434156.
Zain Hansen MPS Foundation. 23400 Henderson Rd., Covelo, CA 95420. (800) 767-3121.


National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health.
"NINDS Mucopolysaccharidoses Information Page." The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health.
Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


 [mu″ko-pol″ĭ-sak″ah-rĭ-do´sis] (pl. mucopolysaccharido´ses)
any of a group of genetically determined disorders due to a defect in mucopolysaccharide metabolism, marked by skeletal changes, mental retardation, visceral involvement, and corneal clouding, with widespread tissue deposits and mucopolysacchariduria. hurler's syndrome is the prototype of this disorder.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


A range of inherited errors of MUCOPOLYSACCHARIDE metabolism each due to a deficiency of a specific enzyme leading to the abnormal deposition of mucopolysaccharides in the tissues. These disorders feature dwarfism, facial coarseness, mental retardation, bone and joint abnormalities, retinal degeneration, GLAUCOMA, clouding of the cornea, and other effects. There are at least seven varieties.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Greed, "Incidence of the Mucopolysaccharidoses in Western Australia," American Journal of Medical Genetics, vol.
The mucopolysaccharidoses. Diagnosis, molecular genetics and treatment.
Measuring urinary glycosaminoglycans in the presence of protein: an improved screening procedure for mucopolysaccharidoses based on dimethylmethylene blue.
Those levels are elevated in newborns with mucopolysaccharidoses such as MPS VII, tipping off physicians to the impending problem.
Le~ao Teles, Radiologic and neuroradiologic findings in the mucopolysaccharidoses, Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, Submitted (reference to another paper of these proceedings).
This can be distinguished from the ovoid vertebral bodies of Hurler's syndrome and other mucopolysaccharidoses. The central anterior beaking of Morquio's syndrome also differs from the antero-inferior beaking of Hurler's syndrome and other mucopolysaccharidoses.
Antibodies have been used for the localization of heparan sulfate in murine models of the mucopolysaccharidoses (50).
INTRODUCTION: Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) are a group of progressive hereditary disorders of connective tissue metabolism in which lysosomal enzyme deficiency leads to intralysosomal deposition of mucopolysaccharides or glycosaminoglycans in the airway, cornea, brain, heart, liver, spleen, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, skin producing various symptoms.
In the case of the mucopolysaccharidoses, a single enzyme defect leads to a block in the sequential degradation of glycosaminoglycans, and the undigested fragments accumulate in the lysosomes, which become distended and gradually compromise cellular function.

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