Succinic Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase Deficiency

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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It is possible that the main title of the report Succinic Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase Deficiency is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) deficiency is a rare inborn error of metabolism that is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. In individuals with the disorder, deficient activity of the SSADH enzyme disrupts the metabolism of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a natural chemical known as a "neurotransmitter" that serves to inhibit the electrical activities of nerve cells (inhibitory neurotransmitter). SSADH deficiency leads to abnormal accumulation of the compound succinic semialdehyde, which is reduced or converted to 4-hydroxybutyric acid, also known as GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid). GHB is a natural compound that has a wide range of effects within the nervous system. The "hallmark" laboratory finding associated with SSADH deficiency is elevated levels of GHB in the urine (i.e., 4-hydroxybutyric or gamma-hydroxybutyric aciduria), the liquid portion of the blood (plasma), and the fluid that flows through the brain and spinal canal (cerebrospinal fluid [CSF]).

SSADH deficiency leads to various neurological and neuromuscular symptoms and findings. These abnormalities may be extremely variable from case to case, including among affected members of the same families (kindreds). However, most individuals with SSADH deficiency are affected by mild to severe mental retardation, delays in the acquisition of skills requiring the coordination of mental and physical activities (psychomotor retardation), and delays in language and speech development. In addition, in some cases, initial findings may include diminished muscle tone (hypotonia), an impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (ataxia), and/or episodes of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (seizures). Some affected individuals may also have additional abnormalities, such as decreased reflex reactions (hyporeflexia); involuntary, rapid, rhythmic eye movements (nystagmus); increased muscular activity (hyperkinesis); and/or behavioral abnormalities.

Supporting Organizations

11q Research and Resource Group

5155 Shotwell Street
Woodstock, GA 30188
Tel: (404)428-8440

Epilepsy Foundation

8301 Professional Place
Landover, MD 20785-7223
Tel: (866)330-2718
Fax: (877)687-4878
Tel: (800)332-1000

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311

March of Dimes

1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: (914)997-4488
Fax: (914)997-4763
Email: or
Website: and

NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

31 Center Dr
Building 31, Room 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892
Fax: (866)760-5947
Tel: (800)370-2943

NIH/National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases

Office of Communications & Public Liaison
Bldg 31, Rm 9A06
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Tel: (301)496-3583

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Tel: (301)496-5751
Fax: (301)402-2186
Tel: (800)352-9424

SSADH Association (Succinic Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase Deficiency)

498 Lillian Court
P.O. Box 180622
Delafield, WI 53018
Tel: (262)646-5133
Fax: (262)255-8218

The Arc

1825 K Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202)534-3700
Fax: (202)534-3731
Tel: (800)433-5255

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

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This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  4/25/2008
Copyright  2003 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.