Plasma free amino-acids were measured in 41 patients with hereditary chorio-retinal degenerations including 26 with retinitis pigmentosa and five with gyrate atrophy of the choroid, six relatives of patients with gyrate atrophy, and 13 normal subjects. Patients with gyrate atrophy had very increased levels of ornithine and slightly decreased mean lysine values. Most relatives had slightly increased ornithine. Taurine, known to be deficient in the plasma of casein-fed cats with photoreceptor degeneration, was normal in all patients. Amino-acid precursors and metabolites of ornithine and taurine were also normal in the plasma. Although the association of high ornithine and gyrate atrophy appears constant, high levels of ornithine alone do not necessarily lead to this degeneration; one patient with known hyperammonaemia, homocitrullinuria and a tenfold increase in plasma ornithine was found to have a normal fundus appearance and normal electroretinogram.
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