Creatine Deficiency Syndromes: Comparison of Screening Methods and Characterization of Four Novel Intronic Variants

Naira M Mustafa, Nevine E Elabd, Laila A Selim, Doaa M Abdou, Jules Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Cerebral creatine deficiency syndromes (CCDS) are disorders affecting creatine synthesis or transport. Several methods have been developed to measure creatine and guanidinoacetate (GAA) in different body fluids including methods based on gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and High-pressure liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS). The diagnosis of CCDS is then confirmed by sequencing of creatine biosynthesis genes guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) and Arginine: glycine amidinotransferase (GATM) and creatine transporter gene solute carrier family 6 member 8 (SLC6A8) or by functional enzymatic assay. The aim of the current study was to find the most reliable and accurate screening method for CCDS by comparing methods using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (NMR), GC-MS and HPLC-MS. Additionally, this study was performed to estimate the prevalence of CCDS in a cohort of Egyptian patients and potentially to discover novel variants.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The study was conducted on 150 subjects with clinical signs and symptoms consistent with CCDS. Metabolic profiling of urine samples was performed using three techniques: 1) GC-MS 2) Ultra high-pressure (or performance) liquid chromatography - Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UHPLC- MS/MS) and 3) NMR.

RESULTS: The linearity of peak areas for creatine and GAA by UHPLC-MS/MS and NMR covered and exceeded the ranges normally found in urine. The limit of quantification and the inter-day precision results for creatine and GAA were more robust by UHPLC-MS/MS than NMR. Ten cases were identified as being positive for CCDS by our analytical approaches and underwent next generation sequencing (NGS) for GAMT, GATM and SLC6A8 genes. NGS was performed and confirmed one patient with one likely Pathogenic variant in GAMT gene: (NC_000019.10:g.1401317C > G, NP_000147.1:p.Ala54Pro). Additionally, we describe four novel intronic variants in the GATM gene: c.1043-357del and c.1043-357_1043-356insT, and were predicted to activate cryptic acceptor site with potential alteration of splicing, c.979-227G > A was found to significantly alter the Exon Splice Enhancer (ESE) xon Splice Silencer (ESS) motifs ratio and c.1042 + 262del which was found to have no implications on splicing.

CONCLUSIONS: Both UHPLC-MS/MS and NMR spectroscopy are comparable to GC-MS in screening for CCDS. Nonetheless, the UHPLC-MS/MS method had better performance than NMR spectroscopy. Additionally, Sequencing of the full length of GATM, GAMT, and SLC6A8 genes is needed to identify intronic variants that could cause CCDS via affecting splice sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalClinica Chimica Acta
Early online date18 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core Facility, University of Cambridge, UK, for help in the Bioinformatics analysis. This work was supported by Medical Research Council, UK and Newton-Mosharafa Research Fund.

NM acknowledges the Newton-Mosharafa Research Fund for support. Work in the JLG lab is supported by the Medical Research Council, UK (MR/P011705/1, MC_UP_A090_1006).


  • Creatine deficiency syndromes
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Novel intronic variants
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • ultra-high performance liquid


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