Modeling for Lesch-Nyhan disease by gene targeting in human embryonic stem cells

Achiya Urbach, Maya Schuldiner, Nissim Benvenisty*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Human embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent cells derived from blastocyst-stage embryos. It has been suggested that these cells should play a major role in transplantation medicine and be able to advance our knowledge in human embryology. We propose that these cells should also play a vital role in the creation of models of human disorders. This aspect would be most valuable where animal models failed to faithfully recapitulate the human phenotype. Lesch-Nyhan disease is caused by a mutation in the HPRT1 gene that triggers an overproduction of uric acid, causing gout-like symptoms and urinary stones, in addition to neurological disorders. Due to biochemical differences between humans and rodents, a mouse lacking the HPRT expression will fail to accumulate uric acid. In this research we demonstrate a model for Lesch-Nyhan disease by mutating the HPRT1 gene in human ES cells using homologous recombination. We have verified the mutation in the HPRT1 allele at the DNA and RNA levels. By using selection media, we show that HPRT1 activity is abolished in the mutant cells, and the HPRT1-cells show a higher rate of uric acid accumulation than the wild-type cells. Therefore, these cells recapitulate to some extent the characteristics of Lesch-Nyhan syndrome and can help researchers further investigate this genetic disease and analyze drugs that will prevent the onset of its symptoms. We therefore suggest that human diseases may be modeled using human ES cells.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)635-641
Number of pages7
JournalStem Cells
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Genetic diseases
  • Homologous recombination
  • Human ES cells
  • Lesch-Nyhan syndrome


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