Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Adult-type hypolactasia: Genotype-phenotype correlation

Heli Rasinperä

Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Medical Genetics and University of Helsinki, Hospital for Children and Adolescents.

Adult-type hypolactasia (primary lactose malabsorption, lactase non-persistence) is the most common enzyme deficiency worldwide, and manifests with symptoms of lactose intolerance such as abdominal pain, gas formation and diarrhea. In humans with adult-type hypolactasia, lactase activity is high at birth, but declines during childhood to about one-tenth of the activity at birth. In 2002, a one base polymorphism C/T-13910, located 14 kilobases from the starting codon of the lactase-phlorizin hydrolase (LPH) gene was observed to be associated with the persistence of lactase activity. The T-13910 allele (C/T-13910 and T/T-13910 genotypes) associates with persistence of lactase activity throughout life, whereas the C/C-13910 genotype associates with adult-type hypolactasia.

In this thesis work, the timing and mechanism of decline of lactase enzyme activity during development was studied using the C/T-13910 polymorphism as a molecular marker. We observed an excellent correlation between low lactase activity and the C/C-13910 genotype in all subjects > 12 years of age, irrespective their ethnicity. In children of African origin, the lactase activity declined somewhat earlier than among Finnish children. Furthermore, we observed an increasing imbalance in the relative lactase mRNA expression from the C-13910 and T-13910 alleles in Finnish children beginning from five years of age. The genetic test for adult-type hypolactasia showed a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 100% in the Finnish children and adolescents > 12 years of age.

The relation of milk consumption and the milk-related abdominal complaints to the C/T-13910 genotypes associated with lactase persistence/non-persistence was studied by a questionnaire-based approach in > 2100 Finns. Both Finnish children and adults with the C/C-13910 genotype consumed significantly less dairy products compared to those with the C/T-13910 and T/T-13910 genotypes. Flatulence was the only of the abdominal symptoms of lactose intolerance that subjects with the C/C-13910 genotype reported significantly more often than those with the C/T-13910 and T/T-13910 genotypes. A minor proportion (<10%) of subjects with the C/C-13910 genotype, nevertheless, reported drinking milk without any symptoms afterwards. There was no association between cow's milk allergy starting as a newborn and adult-type hypolactasia.

In an association study an increased risk of colorectal cancer was observed among those with molecular diagnosis of adult-type hypolactasia. It warrants further studies to clarify whether the increased risk observed in the Finnish population is associated with lactose or decreased intake of dairy products in these subjects.

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Last updated 05.05.2006

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