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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Pyruvate kinase deficiency

Other Names for this Disease
  • PK deficiency
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency of erythrocytes
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency of red cells
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Your Question

My son was diagnosed with pyruvate kinase deficiency when he was a baby. My husband and I were tested and are negative for being carriers. Could you tell me what else could cause pyruvate kinase deficiency? 

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is pyruvate kinase deficiency?

Pyruvate kinase deficiency is a hereditary blood disorder characterized by low levels of an enzyme called pyruvate kinase, which is used by red blood cells. Without pyruvate kinase, red blood cells break down too easily, resulting in low levels of these cells (hemolytic anemia).[1] Signs and symptoms include jaundice, enlargement of the spleen, and mild or severe hemolysis (red cell breakdown), leading to anemia.[2] Problems may first appear in the newborn as prolonged jaundice and anemia. Older children may be pale (due to anemia) and have intermittent episodes of jaundice. Mild cases may escape detection until adulthood.[1] Pyruvate kinase deficiency is caused by a mutation in the PKLR gene and is inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion.[1][3] 
Last updated: 7/18/2011

What causes pyruvate kinase deficiency?

In most cases, pyruvate kinase deficiency is caused by mutations in the PKLR gene.[1] More than 100 different mutation in the PKLR gene have been detected. Medical conditions, such as acute leukemia, preleukemia, and refractory sideroblastic anemia, as well as complications from chemotherapy, can cause an acquired pyruvate kinase deficiency. This type is more common and milder than the hereditary type.[4]
Last updated: 7/18/2011

Who can we contact to discuss our concerns regarding how our son became affected by pyruvate kinase deficiency when we do not appear to be carriers?

You may wish to discuss your concerns with a genetics professional. Genetics clinics are a source of information for individuals and families regarding genetic conditions, treatment, inheritance, and genetic risks to other family members. More information about genetic consultations is available from Genetics Home Reference at To find a genetics clinic, we recommend that you contact your primary healthcare provider for a referral.

The following online resources can help you find a genetics professional in your community:  

Last updated: 7/18/2011