Biotinidase deficiency is a rare inherited defect in the body's ability to use dietary biotin, one of the B vitamins. The disease is also known as juvenile or late-onset multiple carboxylase deficiency.
Biotin is essential as a co-factor (co-enzyme) for the reactions of four enzymes called carboxylases. These enzymes, in turn, play important roles in the metabolism of sugars, fats, and proteins within the human body. Another key enzyme, biotinidase, recycles biotin from these reactions so it can be used again. A defect in the biotinidase gene results in decreased amounts of normal enzyme, thus preventing the reuse of biotin. In turn, this leads to a disruption of the function of the four carboxylases that depend on biotin, and results in a variety of abnormalities of the nervous system and skin. Since symptoms usually do not appear immediately at birth, biotinidase deficiency is also referred to as late-onset or juvenile multiple carboxylase deficiency. A related disorder, early-onset or neonatal multiple carboxylase deficiency, is caused by the lack of a different enzyme, holocarboxylase synthetase, and, as the name suggests, results in symptoms in the newborn period.
Biotinidase deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder affecting both males and females. In individuals with this disorder, both copies of the biotinidase gene are defective. Both parents of an affected child have one abnormal copy of the gene, but usually do not show symptoms because they also have one normal copy. The normal copy provides approximately 50% of the usual enzyme activity, a level adequate for the body's needs. Individuals with one abnormal copy of the gene and 50% enzyme activity are said to be carriers or heterozygotes. As is typical of autosomal recessive inheritance, their risk for having another
child with the disorder is 25% in each subsequent pregnancy.