Tay-Sachs disease in Jacob sheep. Academic Article uri icon


  • Autopsy studies of four Jacob sheep dying within their first 6-8 months of a progressive neurodegenerative disorder suggested the presence of a neuronal storage disease. Lysosomal enzyme studies of brain and liver from an affected animal revealed diminished activity of hexosaminidase A (Hex A) measured with an artificial substrate specific for this component of -hexosaminidase. Absence of Hex A activity was confirmed by cellulose acetate electrophoresis. Brain lipid analyses demonstrated the presence of increased concentrations of G(M2)-ganglioside and asialo-G(M2)-ganglioside. The hexa cDNA of Jacob sheep was cloned and sequenced revealing an identical number of nucleotides and exons as in human HexA and 86% homology in nucleotide sequence. A missense mutation was found in the hexa cDNA of the affected sheep caused by a single nucleotide change at the end of exon 11 resulting in skipping of exon 11. Transfection of normal sheep hexa cDNA into COS1 cells and human Hex A-deficient cells led to expression of Hex S but no increase in Hex A indicating absence of cross-species dimerization of sheep Hex -subunit with human Hex -subunits. Using restriction site analysis, the heterozygote frequency of this mutation in Jacob sheep was determined in three geographically separate flocks to average 14%. This large naturally occurring animal model of Tay-Sachs disease is the first to offer promise as a means for trials of gene therapy applicable to human infants.

published proceedings

  • Mol Genet Metab

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Torres, P. A., Zeng, B. J., Porter, B. F., Alroy, J., Horak, F., Horak, J., & Kolodny, E. H.

citation count

  • 41

complete list of authors

  • Torres, Paola A||Zeng, Bai Jin||Porter, Brian F||Alroy, Joseph||Horak, Fred||Horak, Joan||Kolodny, Edwin H

publication date

  • January 2010