Drug Discov Ther. 2020;14(1):1-7. (DOI: 10.5582/ddt.2019.01079)

New insights into the molecular basis of lactase non-persistence/ persistence: a brief review

Kuchay RAH


Lactose, a disaccharide and main carbohydrate in milk, requires hydrolysis in the intestinal tract to release its monosaccharides galactose and glucose for use as energy source by enterocytes. This hydrolysis is catalyzed by the enzyme lactase, a β-galactosidase located in the brush border membrane of small intestinal enterocytes. In most mammals, lactase activity declines after the weaning, a condition known as lactase non-persistence (LNP). Lactase persistence (LP) is an autosomal dominant trait enabling the continued production of the enzyme lactase throughout adult life. Non-persistence or persistence of lactase expression into adult life being a polymorphic trait has been attributed to various single nucleotide polymorphisms in the enhancer region surrounding lactase gene (LCT). However, latest research has pointed to 'genetic-epigenetic interactions' as key to regulation of lactase expression. LNP and LP DNA haplotypes have demonstrated markedly different epigenetic aging as genetic factors contribute to gradual accumulation of epigenetic changes with age to affect lactase expression. This review will attempt to present an overview of latest insights into molecular basis of LNP/LP including the crucial role of 'genetic-epigenetic interactions' in regulating lactase expression.

KEYWORDS: Lactase non-persistence, lactase persistence, genetic-epigenetic interactions

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