Galactosylceramidase deficiency and pathological abnormalities in cerebral white matter of Krabbe disease

Diego Iacono, Shunsuke Koga, Hui Peng, Arulmani Manavalan, Jessica Daiker, Monica Castanedes-Casey, Nicholas B. Martin, Aimee R. Herdt, Michael H. Gelb, Dennis W. Dickson, Chris W. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Krabbe Disease (KD) is an autosomal recessive disorder that results from loss-of-function mutations in the GALC gene, which encodes lysosomal enzyme galactosylceramidase (GALC). Functional deficiency of GALC is toxic to myelin-producing cells, which leads to progressive demyelination in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. It is hypothesized that accumulation of psychosine, which can only be degraded by GALC, is a primary initiator of pathologic cascades. Despite the central role of GALC in KD pathomechanism, investigations of GALC deficiency at a protein level are largely absent, due in part, to the lack of sensitive antibodies in the field. Leveraging two custom antibodies that can detect GALC at endogenous levels, we demonstrated that GALC protein is predominantly localized to oligodendrocytes in cerebral white matter of an infant brain, consistent with its functional role in myelination. Mature GALC could also be quantitatively detected as a 26 kDa band by western blotting and correlated to enzyme activity in brain tissues. The p.Ile562Thr polymorphic variant, which is over-represented in the KD population, was associated with reduced mature GALC protein and activity. In three infantile KD cases, homozygous null mutations in GALC lead to deficiency in total GALC protein and activity. Interestingly, although GALC activity was absent, normal levels of total GALC protein were detected by a sandwich ELISA using our custom antibodies in a later-onset KD brain, which suggests that the assay has the potential to differentiate infantile- and later-onset KD cases. Among the infantile KD cases, we quantified a 5-fold increase in psychosine levels, and observed increased levels of acid ceramidase, a key enzyme for psychosine production, and hyperglycosylated lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1, a marker for lysosomal activation, in periventricular white matter, a major pathological brain region, when compared with age-matched normal controls. While near complete demyelination was observed in these cases, we quantified that an early-infantile case (age of death at 10 months) had about 3-fold increases in both globoid cells, a pathological hallmark for KD, and CD8-positive T lymphocytes, a pathological marker for multiple sclerosis, in the white matter when compared with a slower progressing infantile case (age of death at 21 months), which suggests a positive correlation between clinical severity and neuropathology. Taken together, our findings have advanced the understanding of GALC protein biology in the context of normal and KD brain white matter. We also revealed new neuropathological changes that may provide insights to understand KD pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105862
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Acid ceramidase
  • CD8-positive T lymphocyte
  • Cerebral white matter
  • Demyelination
  • Galactosylceramidase
  • Globoid cell leukodystrophy
  • Krabbe disease
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Oligodendrocyte
  • Psychosine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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