Inherited thrombocytopenia associated with mutation of UDP-galactose-4-epimerase (GALE)

Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Jan 1;28(1):133-142. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy334.


Severe thrombocytopenia, characterized by dysplastic megakaryocytes and intracranial bleeding, was diagnosed in six individuals from a consanguineous kindred. Three of the individuals were successfully treated by bone marrow transplant. Whole-exome sequencing and homozygosity mapping of multiple family members, coupled with whole-genome sequencing to reveal shared non-coding variants, revealed one potentially functional variant segregating with thrombocytopenia under a recessive model: GALE p.R51W (c.C151T, NM_001127621). The mutation is extremely rare (allele frequency = 2.5 × 10-05), and the likelihood of the observed co-segregation occurring by chance is 1.2 × 10-06. GALE encodes UDP-galactose-4-epimerase, an enzyme of galactose metabolism and glycosylation responsible for two reversible reactions: interconversion of UDP-galactose with UDP-glucose and interconversion of UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine with UDP-N-acetylglucosamine. The mutation alters an amino acid residue that is conserved from yeast to humans. The variant protein has both significantly lower enzymatic activity for both interconversion reactions and highly significant thermal instability. Proper glycosylation is critical to normal hematopoiesis, in particular to megakaryocyte and platelet development, as reflected in the presence of thrombocytopenia in the context of congenital disorders of glycosylation. Mutations in GALE have not previously been associated with thrombocytopenia. Our results suggest that GALE p.R51W is inadequate for normal glycosylation and thereby may impair megakaryocyte and platelet development. If other mutations in GALE are shown to have similar consequences, this gene may be proven to play a critical role in hematopoiesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Female
  • Galactose / metabolism
  • Galactosemias / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedigree
  • Thrombocytopenia / genetics*
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / genetics*
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / metabolism
  • Whole Exome Sequencing


  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase
  • galactose epimerase
  • Galactose