The Galactose Index measured in fibroblasts of GALT deficient patients distinguishes variant patients detected by newborn screening from patients with classical phenotypes

Mol Genet Metab. 2020 Mar;129(3):171-176. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2020.01.002. Epub 2020 Jan 9.


Background: The high variability in clinical outcome of patients with Classical Galactosemia (CG) is poorly understood and underlines the importance of prognostic biomarkers, which are currently lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate if residual galactose metabolism capacity is associated with clinical and biochemical outcomes in CG patients with varying geno- and phenotypes.

Methods: Galactose Metabolite Profiling (GMP) was used to determine residual galactose metabolism in fibroblasts of CG patients. The association between the galactose index (GI) defined as the ratio of the measured metabolites [U13C]Gal-1-P/ [13C6]UDP-galactose, and both intellectual and neurological outcome and galactose-1-phosphate (Gal-1-P) levels was investigated.

Results: GMP was performed in fibroblasts of 28 patients and 3 control subjects. The GI of the classical phenotype patients (n = 22) was significantly higher than the GI of four variant patients detected by newborn screening (NBS) (p = .002), two homozygous p.Ser135Leu patients (p = .022) and three controls (p = .006). In the classical phenotype patients, 13/18 (72%) had a poor intellectual outcome (IQ < 85) and 6/12 (50%) had a movement disorder. All the NBS detected variant patients (n = 4) had a normal intellectual outcome (IQ ≥ 85) and none of them has a movement disorder. In the classical phenotype patients, there was no significant difference in GI between patients with a poor and normal clinical outcome. The NBS detected variant patients had significantly lower GI levels and thus higher residual galactose metabolism than patients with classical phenotypes. There was a clear correlation between Gal-1-P levels in erythrocytes and the GI (p = .001).

Conclusions: The GI was able to distinguish CG patients with varying geno- and phenotypes and correlated with Gal-1-P. The data of the NBS detected variant patients demonstrated that a higher residual galactose metabolism may result in a more favourable clinical outcome. Further research is needed to enable individual prognostication and treatment in all CG patients.

Keywords: Classical Galactosemia; Fibroblasts; GALT deficiency; Inborn error of metabolism; Residual galactose metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Galactose / metabolism*
  • Galactosemias / diagnosis*
  • Galactosemias / genetics
  • Galactosemias / metabolism*
  • Galactosemias / physiopathology
  • Galactosephosphates / metabolism
  • Genotype
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intellectual Disability / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis
  • Neonatal Screening
  • Phenotype


  • Galactosephosphates
  • galactose-1-phosphate
  • Galactose