Hereditary porphyrias are caused by mutations in genes that encode haem biosynthetic enzymes with resultant buildup of cytotoxic metabolic porphyrin intermediates. A long-standing open question is why the same causal porphyria mutations exhibit widely variable penetrance and expressivity in different individuals. Here we show that severely affected porphyria patients harbour variant alleles in the ABCB6 gene, also known as Lan, which encodes an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter. Plasma membrane ABCB6 exports a variety of disease-related porphyrins. Functional studies show that most of these ABCB6 variants are expressed poorly and/or have impaired function. Accordingly, homozygous disruption of the Abcb6 gene in mice exacerbates porphyria phenotypes in the Fech m1Pas mouse model, as evidenced by increased porphyrin accumulation, and marked liver injury. Collectively, these studies support ABCB6 role as a genetic modifier of porphyria and suggest that porphyrin-inducing drugs may produce excessive toxicities in individuals with the rare Lan(-) blood type.
Fukuda, Y., Cheong, P. L., Lynch, J., Brighton, C., Frase, S., Kargas, V., … Schuetz, J. D. (2016). The severity of hereditary porphyria is modulated by the porphyrin exporter and Lan antigen ABCB6. Nature Communications, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12353