Fabry disease is a disorder of glycosphingolipid metabolism caused by deficiency of lysosomal alpha-galactosidase A (alpha-Gal A), resulting in renal failure along with premature myocardial infarction and strokes. No effective treatment of this disorder is available at present. Studies of residual activities of mutant enzymes in many Fabry patients showed that some of them had kinetic properties similar to those for normal alpha-Gal A, but were significantly less stable, especially in conditions of neutral pH (refs. 3-5). The biosynthetic processing was delayed in cultured fibroblasts of a Fabry patient, and the mutant protein formed an aggregate in endoplasmic reticulum, indicating that the enzyme deficiency in some mutants was mainly caused by abortive exit from the endoplasmic reticulum, leading to excessive degradation of the enzyme. We report here that 1-deoxy-galactonojirimycin (DGJ), a potent competitive inhibitor of alpha-Gal A, effectively enhanced alpha-Gal A activity in Fabry lymphoblasts, when administrated at concentrations lower than that usually required for intracellular inhibition of the enzyme. DGJ seemed to accelerate transport and maturation of the mutant enzyme. Oral administration of DGJ to transgenic mice overexpressing a mutant alpha-Gal A substantially elevated the enzyme activity in some organs. We propose a new molecular therapeutic strategy for genetic metabolic diseases of administering competitive inhibitors as 'chemical chaperons' at sub-inhibitory intracellular concentrations.