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alkaptonuria al·kap·to·nu·ri·a or al·cap·to·nu·ri·a (āl-kāp'tə-nur'ē-ə, -nyur'-)
An inherited disorder that affects phenylalanine and tyrosine metabolism and leads to the excretion of homogentisic acid in the urine. Also called homogentisuria.
rather rare (one in 200,000 births) inherited disorder of protein metabolism characterized by an inability of the body to metabolize the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine. In the normal metabolic pathway of tyrosine, homogentisic acid is converted to maleylacetoacetate in the liver by the enzyme homogentisate 1,2-dioxygenase. This enzyme is not active in individuals who have alkaptonuria. Except for a blackening of the urine due to the buildup and oxidation of homogentisic acid, this disorder has no clinical manifestations until the affected person is in his twenties or thirties, when deposits of ochre pigments begin to appear in various fibrous connective tissues of the body. The pigment, bound to collagen fibres in the deeper layers of joint cartilage and intervertebral disks (the fibrous pads between adjacent bones of the spine), causes these tissues to lose their normal resiliency and become brittle. The erosion of the abnormal cartilage leads to a progressive degenerative disease of the joints, which usually becomes manifest by the fourth decade of life. Usually, the intervertebral disks become thinned and calcified first, and later the knees, shoulders, and hips are affected.