Gaucher's Disease

Gaucher’s Disease (GD) is an inherited lysosomal storage disorder. There are three types of Gaucher’s Disease, which differ in their severity and clinical presentation. Type I Gaucher’s Disease (GD1) is known as non-neuropathic Gaucher’s Disease because the nervous systems of GD1 patients are unaffected. By contrast, types II and III GD patients present with neurological symptoms. This website will focus on GD1, which is the most common lysosomal storage disorder discovered thus far.

The general symptoms associated with the three types of Gaucher’s Disease are shown in this figure. Source: Children’s Gaucher Research Fund

Gaucher’s Disease is caused by inherited mutations in the GBA gene located on chromosome I. Mutations in the GBA gene cause the gene’s protein product, acid-beta glucocerebrosidase (GlcCerase), to misfold during the process in which the protein adopts the three-dimensional structure necessary to perform its function (Brady et al. 1965).

GlcCerase is an enzyme located in the lysosome, an organelle that contains many different enzymes that break down complex molecules. This enzyme is involved in the metabolism of sphingolipids. Specifically, GlcCerase converts the lipid glucosylceramide (GlcCer) to ceramide and glucose (National Institute of Health, 2010).

Ceramide eventually forms sphingolipids that become part of the plasma membrane and perform a variety of functions (National Institute of Health, 2010). When GlcCerase does not fold properly, as in Gaucher’s Disease, it cannot make ceramide from GlcCer, which results in an accumulation of GlcCer in the cell. GlcCer accumulation is the root cause of Gaucher’s Disease symptoms, which include enlargement of the spleen and liver, anemia, cancer, and bone abnormalities (Boven et al. 2004).

This figure illustrates the basics of a lysosomal storage disorder. Source: Google Images
This figure illustrates the basics of a lysosomal storage disorder. Source:

Treatment of Gaucher’s Disease comes in a variety of forms. One approach is to replace the misfolded GlcCerase with properly folded and functional GlcCerase, known as enzyme replacement therapy. If defective GlcCerase is replaced with functional GlcCerase, GlcCer accumulation will greatly decrease (Barton et al. 1991). Another approach is to remove protein degradation factors in the endoplasmic reticulum that cause GlcCerase to misfold in an attempt to promote proper folding of GlcCerase (Ron and Horowitz 2005). Gene therapy can also serve as a viable future therapeutic option. Studies have shown that inserting a wild-type (normal) GBA gene into mice and promoting its expression can cause a decrease in GlcCer accumulation due to an increased concentration of functional GlcCerase (Dahl et al. 2015).

Click here to learn more about Gaucher’s Disease:

History and Metabolic Context 

Molecular Basis of Disease

Treatments and Disease Management

Proposals for Future Research and Conclusions


Barton NW et al. 1991. Replacement therapy for inherited enzyme deficiency–macrophage-targeted glucocerebrosidase for Gaucher’s disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 324 (21): 1464-1470. doi:10.1056/NEJM199105233242104

Boven LA et al. 2004. Gaucher cells demonstrate a distinct macrophage phenotype and resemble alternatively activated macrophages. Hematopathology. 122 (3): 359-369. doi:10.1309/BG5VA8JRDQH1M7HN

Brady RO, Kanfer JN, and Shapiro D. 1965. Metabolism of glucocerebrosides II: evidence of an enzvmatic deficiency in Gaucher’s Disease. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 18: 221-225. doi:10.1016/0006-291X(65)90743-6

Dahl M et al. 2015. Lentiviral gene therapy using cellular promoters cures type 1 Gaucher disease in mice. Molecular Therapy. doi:10.1038/mt.2015.16

National Institute of Health. 2010. An overview of sphingolipid metabolism: from synthesis to breakdown. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 688: 1-23. PMID 20919643

Ron I and Horowitz M. 2005. ER retention and degradation as the molecular basis underlying Gaucher disease heterogeneity. Human Molecular Genetics. 14 (16): 2387-2398. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddi240

6 Replies to “Gaucher's Disease”

  1. I thought this was a well written article. I was able to follow along, and learned about this disease. It would be interesting to compare the three different types of this disease, instead of focusing on just one.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I was considering that, but I choose to only focus on type I Gaucher’s Disease because type I is the most common form and I feel that I will be able to go into greater detail by focusing on just one type.

  2. I like that there is a lot of detail in the article, however I found it somewhat hard to following without having much background in the area. I found myself having to look up a lot of words and phrases in order to understand it. Perhaps adding some more information about the symptoms and treatments would be helpful in understanding what the disease is.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion, Nikki! I really tried to keep my summary brief and accessible to non-scientific audiences. I tried to keep the paragraphs short so that the readers could keep track of my discussion. The links attached to the paragraphs are directly attached to the biochemistry primer, which is a part of our website. These definitions should be helpful in understanding my discussion of Gaucher’s Disease. To address your last point, I just wanted to give a general overview of the symptoms and treatment options, but these will be discussed more extensively on the other pages attached to the website. If you would like more information, you could check those out toward the end of the month. Again, thanks for reading my page! 🙂

  3. This was a very well written article. I was able to follow through the whole thing. The article was written linearly in which every sentence prior led to the sentence following, which greatly helped with clarity. There is quite a bit of biochemistry in the article, but with the references with the biochemistry primer it was easy to read. For some of the sentences, there were multiple references to the biochemistry primer. For a non-science reader going back and forth multiple times in a given sentence might be difficult for understanding. With more references in the article as you did with lysosome might make it easier to get through some of the biochemistry rich sentences. Great article. Was a nice read.

    1. Hi Ian! I’m glad you enjoyed my page. I really tried to make the information as accessible to non-scientists as possible. I also did not want to be too verbose and explain all of the primer words in my title page. But I agree, that may have made the biochemistry-rich sentences more clear.

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