Catalyzes two distinct but analogous reactions: the epimerization of UDP-glucose to UDP-galactose and the epimerization of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine to UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine.
Carbohydrate metabolism; galactose metabolism.
Involvement in disease
Defects in GALE are the cause of epimerase-deficiency galactosemia (EDG) [MIM:230350]; also known as galactosemia type 3. Clinical features include early-onset cataracts, liver damage, deafness and mental retardation. There are two clinically distinct forms of EDG. (1) A benign, or 'peripheral' form with no detectable GALE activity in red blood cells and characterized by mild symptoms. Some patients may suffer no symptoms beyond raised levels of galactose-1-phosphate in the blood. (2) A much rarer 'generalized' form with undetectable levels of GALE activity in all tissues and resulting in severe features such as restricted growth and mental development.