Long-term dietary intervention with low Phe and/or a specific nutrient combination improve certain aspects of brain functioning in phenylketonuria (PKU)

Bruinenberg, V. M., van Vliet, D., van der Goot, E., Counotte, D. S., Kuhn, M., van Spronsen, F. J. & van der Zee, E. A., 15-Mar-2019, In : PLoS ONE. 14, 3, 20 p., 0213391.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In phenylketonuria (PKU), a gene mutation in the phenylalanine metabolic pathway causes accumulation of phenylalanine (Phe) in blood and brain. Although early introduction of a Phe-restricted diet can prevent severe symptoms from developing, patients who are diagnosed and treated early still experience deficits in cognitive functioning indicating shortcomings of current treatment. In the search for new and/or additional treatment strategies, a specific nutrient combination (SNC) was postulated to improve brain function in PKU. In this study, a long-term dietary intervention with a low-Phe diet, a specific combination of nutrients designed to improve brain function, or both concepts together was investigated in male and female BTBR PKU and WT mice.

Material & methods

48 homozygous wild-types (WT, +/+) and 96 PKU BTBRPah2 (-/-) male and female mice received dietary interventions from postnatal day 31 till 10 months of age and were distributed in the following six groups: high Phe diet (WT C-HP, PKU C-HP), high Phe plus specific nutrient combination (WT SNC-HP, PKU SNC-HP), PKU low-Phe diet (PKU C-LP), and PKU low-Phe diet plus specific nutrient combination (PKU SNC- LP). Memory and motor function were tested at time points 3, 6, and 9 months after treatment initiation in the open field (OF), novel object recognition test (NOR), spatial object recognition test (SOR), and the balance beam (BB). At the end of the experiments, brain neurotransmitter concentrations were determined.


In the NOR, we found that PKU mice, despite being subjected to high Phe conditions, could master the task on all three time points when supplemented with SNC. Under low Phe conditions, PKU mice on control diet could master the NOR at all three time points, while PKU mice on the SNC supplemented diet could master the task at time points 6 and 9 months. SNC supplementation did not consistently influence the performance in the OF, SOR or BB in PKU mice. The low Phe diet was able to normalize concentrations of norepinephrine and serotonin; however, these neurotransmitters were not influenced by SNC supplementation.


This study demonstrates that both a long-lasting low Phe diet, the diet enriched with SNC, as well as the combined diet was able to ameliorate some, but not all of these PKU-induced abnormalities. Specifically, this study is the first long-term intervention study in BTBR PKU mice that shows that SNC supplementation can specifically improve novel object recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0213391
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15-Mar-2019


Related Datasets
  1. Replication Data for: Long-term dietary intervention with low Phe and/or a specific nutrient combination improve certain aspects of brain functioning in phenylketonuria (PKU)

    Bruinenberg, V. M. (Creator), van Vliet, D. (Creator), Goot, van der, E. (Creator), de Vries, M. (Creator), Counotte, D. S. (Creator), Kuhn, M. (Creator), Spronsen, van, F. (Creator), Zee, van der, E. (Creator), University of Groningen, 25-Jan-2019


View all (1) »

View graph of relations

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 80568507