Galactosemia is a clinically heterogeneous autosomal recessive inborn error of metabolism caused by deficiency of galactose-1-phosphate uridylyltransferase (GALT). Despite the numerous point mutations identified in the GALT gene, the prevalence of these mutations in different ethnic groups has not been studied. Reports on genotype/phenotype correlation are not consistent due to the small sample sizes studied and the lack of a sensitive enzyme assay. We applied multiplex PCR/ASO dot blot analysis to screen 293 galactosemic patients for 17 known point mutations in exons 5, 6, and 10. Our data demonstrate that only 7 of these mutations were detected in our patients, accounting for 65% of the GALT mutant alleles. Although Q188R is the most common mutation in Caucasian and Hispanic patients, the S135L mutation is most common in African-Americans. Another mutation, F171S, was observed only among African-American patients. An improved, sensitive, and accurate method was used to measure GALT activity in patient's red blood cells. The results indicated that patients homozygous for Q188R have no enzyme activity while those homozygous for S135L had residual enzyme activity. Interestingly, both Q188R/S135L and S135L/F171S compound heterozygotes demonstrated zero enzyme activity. Overall, 85% of Q188R compound heterozygotes also did not have any enzyme activity, whereas the remaining Q188R and the majority of S135L compound heterozygotes expressed variable amounts of GALT activity. We speculate that heterodimeric subunit interaction plays an important role in determining the overall enzymatic activity. Various genotypes thus result in biochemical and clinical heterogeneity among the patients.
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