Hereditary galactosemia

Metabolism. 2018 Jun:83:188-196. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2018.01.025. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Hereditary galactosemia is an inborn error of carbohydrate metabolism. Galactose is metabolized by Leloir pathway enzymes; galactokinase (GALK), galactose-1-phosphate uridylyltransferase (GALT) and UDP-galactose 4-epimerase (GALE). The defects in these enzymes cause galactosemia in an autosomal recessive manner. The severe GALT deficiency, or classic galactosemia, is life-threatening in the newborn period. The treatment for classic galactosemia is dietary restriction of lactose. Although implementation of lactose restricted diet is efficient in resolving the acute complications, it is not sufficient to prevent long-term complications affecting the brain and female gonads, the two main target organs of damage. Implementation of molecular genetics diagnostic tools and GALT enzyme assays are instrumental in distinguishing classic galactosemia from clinical and biochemical variant forms of GALT deficiency. Better understanding of mechanisms responsible for the phenotypic variation even within the same genotype is essential to provide appropriate counseling for families. Utilization of a lactose restricted diet is also recommended for GALK deficiency and some rare forms of GALE deficiency. Novel modes of therapies are being explored; they may be beneficial if access issues to the affected tissues are circumvented and optimum use of therapeutic window is achieved.

Keywords: Galactose; Galactosemia; Genetics; Lactose; Metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Galactokinase / genetics
  • Galactokinase / metabolism
  • Galactose / metabolism
  • Galactosemias / diagnosis
  • Galactosemias / genetics*
  • Galactosemias / metabolism
  • Galactosemias / therapy
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / genetics
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / metabolism
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase / genetics
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase / metabolism


  • Galactokinase
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase
  • Galactose