Galactose toxicity in animals

IUBMB Life. 2009 Nov;61(11):1063-74. doi: 10.1002/iub.262.


In most organisms, productive utilization of galactose requires the highly conserved Leloir pathway of galactose metabolism. Yet, if this metabolic pathway is perturbed due to congenital deficiencies of the three associated enzymes, or an overwhelming presence of galactose, this monosaccharide which is abundantly present in milk and many non-dairy foodstuffs, will become highly toxic to humans and animals. Despite more than four decades of intense research, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of galactose toxicity in human patients and animal models. In this contemporary review, we take a unique approach to present an overview of galactose toxicity resulting from the three known congenital disorders of galactose metabolism and from experimental hypergalactosemia. Additionally, we update the reader about research progress on animal models, as well as advances in clinical management and therapies of these disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Galactitol / metabolism
  • Galactokinase / genetics
  • Galactose / metabolism
  • Galactose / toxicity*
  • Galactosemias / diet therapy
  • Galactosemias / genetics*
  • Galactosephosphates / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inositol / metabolism
  • Models, Animal
  • Neonatal Screening
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / genetics
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase / genetics


  • Galactosephosphates
  • Galactitol
  • galactose-1-phosphate
  • Inositol
  • Galactokinase
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase
  • Galactose