The genetic determinants for lactose utilization from Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus ATCC 11842 and galactose utilization from Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris MG 1363 were heterologously expressed in the lysine-overproducing strain Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 21253. The C. glutamicum strains expressing the lactose permease and beta-galactosidase genes of L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus exhibited beta-galactosidase activity in excess of 1,000 Miller units/ml of cells and were able to grow in medium in which lactose was the sole carbon source. Similarly, C. glutamicum strains containing the lactococcal aidose-1-epimerase, galactokinase, UDP-glucose-1-P-uridylyltransferase, and UDP-galactose-4-epimerase genes in association with the lactose permease and beta-galactosidase genes exhibited beta-galactosidase levels in excess of 730 Miller units/ml of cells and were able to grow in medium in which galactose was the sole carbon source. When grown in whey-based medium, the engineered C. glutamicum strain produced lysine at concentrations of up to 2 mg/ml, which represented a 10-fold increase over the results obtained with the lactose- and galactose-negative control, C. glutamicum 21253. Despite their increased catabolic flexibility, however, the modified corynebacteria exhibited slower growth rates and plasmid instability.