The results of the neonatal screening for phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) deficiency in Sicily show that its incidence is higher than previously reported for mainland Italians and that non-PKU HPA is in excess of classical and mild PKU. The latter finding suggests that a high number of non-PKU HPA mutations would occur in the Sicilian population compared to populations with an inverted PKU/non-PKU HPA ratio. Previous studies have identified 40 mutations accounting for the majority (98%) of mutant alleles underlying PAH deficiency in Sicily. In order to study the molecular basis of the distribution of PAH deficiency phenotypes in the Sicilian population, we have correlated 31 of those mutations with clinical and metabolic phenotypes in 12 mentally retarded patients, 14 treated patients with classic or mild PKU, and 13 subjects presenting the non-PKU HPA phenotype. The present study proposes a tentative classification for a large number (26) of PAH gene mutations which may represent an additional tool for establishing a differential diagnosis for PAH deficiency in the Sicilian population.
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