Molecular differentiation of congenital lactase deficiency from adult-type hypolactasia

Nutr Rev. 2007 Feb;65(2):95-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2007.tb00286.x.


A limited fraction of the human adult population retains intestinal lactase-phlorizin hydrolase (LPH) activity during adulthood, and this is called the lactase persistence phenotype. However, 95% of all adults have adult-type hypolactasia (ATH) and have difficulty digesting milk sugar. Rarely, some infants are born with an inability to digest lactase (congenital lactase deficiency or CLD) due to low levels of LPH activity, which results in severe clinical consequences if not properly diagnosed and treated by lactose avoidance. Recently, it has been shown that both recessive LPH deficiencies, CLD and ATH, are related to DNA variants affecting the lactase (LCT) gene, but they are mediated through very different molecular mechanisms. The LCT mutations resulting in childhood CLD lead to low LPH activity through nonsense-mediated LCT mRNA decay, whereas the critical nucleotide variants for the ATH phenotype represent distal enhancer polymorphisms, which regulate developmentally LCT transcript levels in intestinal cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 2*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Lactase / deficiency*
  • Lactase / genetics*
  • Lactose Intolerance / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • Genetic Markers
  • Lactase