• mucopolysaccharidosis;
  • lysosomal storage diseases;
  • neurodegenerative disorders;
  • substrate reduction therapy;
  • genistein


Lysosomal storage diseases (LSD) form a group of inherited metabolic disorders caused by dysfunction of one of the lysosomal proteins, resulting in the accumulation of certain compounds. Although these disorders are among first genetic diseases for which specific treatments were proposed, there are still serious unsolved problems that require development of novel therapeutic procedures. An example is neuronopathy, which develops in most of LSD and cannot be treated efficiently by currently approved therapies. Recently, a new potential therapy, called gene expression-targeted isoflavone therapy (GET IT), has been proposed for a group of LSD named mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS), in which storage of incompletely degraded glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) results in severe symptoms of virtually all tissues and organs, including central nervous system. The idea of this therapy is to inhibit synthesis of GAGs by modulating expression of genes coding for enzymes involved in synthesis of these compounds. Such a modulation is possible by using isoflavones, particularly genistein, which interfere with a signal transduction process necessary for stimulation of expression of certain genes. Results of in vitro experiments and studies on animal models indicated a high efficiency of GET IT, including correction of behavior of affected mice. However, clinical trials, performed with soy isoflavone extracts, revealed only limited efficacy. This caused a controversy about GET IT as a potential, effective treatment of patients suffering from MPS, especially neuronopathic forms of these diseases. It this critical review, I present possible molecular mechanisms of therapeutic action of isoflavones (particularly genistein) and suggest that efficacy of GET IT might be sufficiently high when using relatively high doses of synthetic genistein (which was employed in experiments on cell cultures and mouse models) rather than low doses of soy isoflavone extracts (which were used in clinical trials). This proposal can be tested in double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials. © 2012 IUBMB Life, 64(4): 307–315, 2012