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Science. 1991 May 24;252(5009):1097-102.

Instability of a 550-base pair DNA segment and abnormal methylation in fragile X syndrome.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire des Eucaryotes du CNRS, Institut de Chimie Biologique, Faculté de Médecine, Strasbourg, France.


The fragile X syndrome, a common cause of inherited mental retardation, is characterized by an unusual mode of inheritance. Phenotypic expression has been linked to abnormal cytosine methylation of a single CpG island, at or very near the fragile site. Probes adjacent to this island detected very localized DNA rearrangements that constituted the fragile X mutations, and whose target was a 550-base pair GC-rich fragment. Normal transmitting males had a 150- to 400-base pair insertion that was inherited by their daughters either unchanged, or with small differences in size. Fragile X-positive individuals in the next generation had much larger fragments that differed among siblings and showed a generally heterogeneous pattern indicating somatic mutation. The mutated allele appeared unmethylated in normal transmitting males, methylated only on the inactive X chromosome in their daughters, and totally methylated in most fragile X males. However, some males had a mosaic pattern. Expression of the fragile X syndrome thus appears to result from a two-step mutation as well as a highly localized methylation. Carriers of the fragile X mutation can easily be detected regardless of sex or phenotypic expression, and rare apparent false negatives may result from genetic heterogeneity or misdiagnosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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