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Tay–Sachs Disease

  1. Michael Tropak1,
  2. Don J Mahuran1,2

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0006019.pub2



How to Cite

Tropak, M. and Mahuran, D. J. 2010. Tay–Sachs Disease. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University Ave, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  2. 2

    the University of Toronto, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


GM2 gangliosidosis is a family of three diseases that include Tay–Sachs disease (described over a century ago), Sandhoff disease and the AB-variant form, reflecting the need of three gene products to hydrolyse GM2 ganglioside. The recent elucidation of the crystal structures these three proteins have provided a better understanding of the molecular basis of GM2 gangliosidosis. The discovery that most deleterious missense mutations affect the folding or the assembly of the heterodimeric enzyme, and that delays in these processes invoke premature degradation by the endoplasmic reticulum-quality control system, have suggested a novel therapeutic approach, enzyme enhancement therapy, for some forms of this and other genetic diseases. Progress is also being made on developing a more generally applicable approach, based on gene therapy, for Tay–Sachs and Sandhoff disease. If successful, this will also serve as a model for developing similar therapies for other diseases with neurological involvement.

Key Concepts:

  • The history of research into Tay–Sachs disease demonstrates the power of the classical scientific approach to problem solving involving building, over many decades, on the contributions from scientists with diverse interests and expertise.

  • The study or rare diseases often lead to unexpected discoveries of broader-based metabolic pathways and disease mechanisms.

  • The study of rare diseases can also lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches that can be adapted to more common diseases.


  • lysosomal storage disease;
  • glycolipid metabolism;
  • GM2 gangliosidosis;
  • Sandhoff disease;
  • AB-variant;
  • hexosaminidase;
  • GM2 activator protein