Dietary Galactose Increases the Expression of Mitochondrial OXPHOS Genes and Modulates the Carbohydrate Oxidation Pathways in Mouse Intestinal Mucosa

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Background: Prolonged lactation provides substantial health benefits, possibly because of galactose as part of milk sugar lactose. Isocaloric replacement of dietary glucose [16 energy%(en%)] with galactose within a normal diet (64en% carbohydrates) during a 3-wk postweaning period provided substantial benefits on short- and long-term physiologic and metabolic parameters at the whole-body level and liver in female mice, which might be attributable to intestinal function. Objectives: This study aimed to investigate if partial dietary replacement of glucose with galactose alters intestinal metabolism underlying hepatic health effects. Methods: Proximal intestinal mucosa gene profiles in female mice were analyzed using RNAseq technology, validated, and correlated with hepatic health parameters. Results: Transcriptome analysis revealed that the presence of galactose primarily affected the pathways involved in energy metabolism. A consistently higher expression was observed in the subset of mitochondrial transcripts (78 of 80, all P.adj < 0.1). Oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) represented the most upregulated process (all top 10 pathways) independent of the total mitochondrial mass (P = 0.75). Moreover, galactose consistently upregulated carbohydrate metabolism pathways, specifically glycolysis till acetyl-CoA production and fructose metabolism. Also, the expression of transcripts involved in these pathways was negatively correlated with circulating serum amyloid A3 protein, a marker of hepatic inflammation [R (−0.61, −0.5), P (0.002, 0.01)]. Accordingly, CD163+ cells were decreased in the liver. Additionally, the expression of key fructolytic enzymes in the small intestinal mucosa was negatively correlated with triglyceride accumulation in the liver [R (−0.45, −0.4), P (0.03, 0.05)]. Conclusions: To our knowledge, our results show for the first time the role of galactose as an OXPHOS activator in vivo. Moreover, the concept of intestinal cells acting as the body's metabolic gatekeeper is strongly supported, as they alter substrate availability and thereby contribute to the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis, protecting other organs, as evidenced by their potential ability to shield the liver from the potentially detrimental effects of fructose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3448-3457
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
Early online date18 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • carbohydrate metabolism
  • galactose
  • gut-liver axis
  • lactose
  • mitochondria
  • mouse
  • RNAseq


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