Hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI, OMIM 22960), caused by catalytic deficiency of aldolase B (fructose-1,6-bisphosphate aldolase, EC 18.104.22.168), is a recessively inherited condition in which affected homozygotes develop hypoglycaemic and severe abdominal symptoms after taking foods containing fructose and cognate sugars. Continued ingestion of noxious sugars leads to hepatic and renal injury and growth retardation; parenteral administration of fructose or sorbitol may be fatal. Direct detection of a few mutations in the human aldolase B gene on chromosome 9q facilitates the genetic diagnosis of HFI in many symptomatic patients. The severity of the disease phenotype appears to be independent of the nature of the aldolase B gene mutations so far identified. It appears that hitherto there has been little, if any, selection against mutant aldolase B alleles in the population: in the UK, approximately 1.3% of neonates harbour one copy of the prevalent A149P disease allele. The ascendance of sugar as a major dietary nutrient, especially in western societies, may account for the increasing recognition of HFI as a nutritional disease and has shown the prevalence of mutant aldolase B genes in the general population. The severity of clinical expression correlates well with the immediate nutritional environment, age, culture, and eating habits of affected subjects. Here we review the biochemical, genetic, and molecular basis of human aldolase B deficiency in HFI, a disorder which responds to dietary therapy and in which the principal manifestations of disease are thus preventable.
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