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Am J Hum Genet. 2006 Jun;78(6):999-1010. Epub 2006 Apr 28.

The origin of EFNB1 mutations in craniofrontonasal syndrome: frequent somatic mosaicism and explanation of the paucity of carrier males.

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  • 1Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DS, United Kingdom.


Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS) is an X-linked disorder that exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis, and additional minor malformations, but males are usually mildly affected with hypertelorism only. Despite this, males appear underrepresented in CFNS pedigrees, with carrier males encountered infrequently compared with affected females. To investigate these unusual genetic features of CFNS, we exploited the recent discovery of causative mutations in the EFNB1 gene, which encodes ephrin-B1, to survey the molecular alterations in 59 families (39 newly investigated and 20 published elsewhere). We identified the first complete deletions of EFNB1, catalogued 27 novel intragenic mutations, and used Pyrosequencing and analysis of nearby polymorphic alleles to quantify mosaic cases and to determine the parental origin of verified germline mutations. Somatic mosaicism was demonstrated in 6 of 53 informative families, and, of 17 germline mutations in individuals for whom the parental origin of mutation could be demonstrated, 15 arose from the father. We conclude that the major factor accounting for the relative scarcity of carrier males is the bias toward mutations in the paternal germline (which present as affected female offspring) combined with reduced reproductive fitness in affected females. Postzygotic mutations also contribute to the female preponderance, whereas true nonpenetrance in males who are hemizygous for an EFNB1 mutation appears unusual. These results highlight the importance of considering possible origins of mutation in the counseling of families with CFNS and provide a generally applicable approach to the combined analysis of mosaic and germline mutations.

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