Molecular genetics of Krabbe disease (globoid cell leukodystrophy): diagnostic and clinical implications

Hum Mutat. 1997;10(4):268-79. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-1004(1997)10:4<268::AID-HUMU2>3.0.CO;2-D.


Galactocerebrosidase (GALC) is a lysosomal beta-galactosidase responsible for the hydrolysis of the galactosyl moiety from several galactolipids, including galactosylceramide and psychosine. The deficiency of this enzyme results in the autosomal recessive disorder called Krabbe disease. It is also called globoid cell leukodystrophy (GLD), because of the characteristic storage cells found around cerebral blood vessels in the white matter of affected human patients and animal models. Although most patients present with clinical symptoms before 6 months of age, older patients, including adults, have been diagnosed by their severe deficiency of GALC activity. More than 40 mutations have been identified in patients with all clinical types of GLD. While some mutations clearly result in the infantile type if found homozygous or with another severe mutation, it is difficult to predict the phenotype of novel mutations or when mutations are found in the heterozygous state. A high incidence of polymorphic changes on apparent disease-causing alleles also complicates the interpretation of the effects of mutations. The detection of mutations has greatly improved carrier identification among family members and will permit preimplantation diagnosis for some families. The molecular characterization of the naturally occurring mouse, dog, and monkey models will permit their use in trials to evaluate different modes of therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Galactosylceramidase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Leukodystrophy, Globoid Cell / genetics*
  • Leukodystrophy, Globoid Cell / therapy
  • Mice
  • Mutation*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Galactosylceramidase