Defects in gp91-phox, the large subunit of cytochrome b558 (b-245) give rise to X-linked chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), a rare inherited condition characterized by an extreme susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infection. In the majority of cases, the phagocytes are unable to generate any superoxide owing to complete absence of the flavocytochrome. However, a small minority of these patients do have some phagocytic oxidase activity. We describe here an analysis of the molecular basis of the disease in three such variant patients with lesions in the gene coding for gp91-phox on the X chromosome. Three different genetic lesions were found, resulting in the substitution of tyrosine for cysteine 244, a deletion of one of three lysines 313 through 315, and the deletion of the six C-terminal amino acids, respectively. The functional consequences of these defects on oxidase activity was a reduction to 12%, 3.6%, and 2.1% of the normal levels, respectively. Corresponding levels of gp91-phox were 20%, 8%, and 16% of normal classifying these patients as X91-. Microbicidal assays showed that killing of Staphylococcus aureus was grossly impaired in cells in which there was 12% normal activity. This implies that if gene therapy is to be applied, it must restore oxidase activity to a much higher level than that present in the cells of this patient. The sites of two of the mutations were analyzed on a model of the C-terminal half of the gp91-phox, based on the crystal structure of the homologous protein ferrodoxin NADP reductase. Possible structural consequences of the mutations were examined.

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