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Am J Hum Genet. 1994 Jul;55(1):59-68.

Somatic mosaicism for a newly identified splice-site mutation in a patient with adenosine deaminase-deficient immunodeficiency and spontaneous clinical recovery.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016.


Absent or severely reduced adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity produces inherited immunodeficiency of varying severity, with defects of both cellular and humoral immunity. We report somatic mosaicism as the basis for a delayed presentation and unusual course of a currently healthy young adult receiving no therapy. He was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 years because of life-threatening pneumonia, recurrent infections, failure of normal growth, and lymphopenia, but he retained significant cellular immune function. A fibroblast cell line and a B cell line, established at diagnosis, lacked ADA activity and were heteroallelic for splice-donor-site mutation in IVS 1 (+1GT-->CT) and a missense mutation (Arg101Gln). All clones (17/17) isolated from the B cell mRNA carried the missense mutation, indicating that the allele with the splice-site mutation produced unstable mRNA. In striking contrast, a B cell line established at age 16 years expressed 50% of normal ADA; 50% of ADA mRNA had normal sequence, and 50% had the missense mutation. Genomic DNA contained the missense mutation but not the splice-site mutation. All three cell lines were identical for multiple polymorphic markers and the presence of a Y chromosome. In vivo somatic mosaicism was demonstrated in genomic DNA from peripheral blood cells obtained at 16 years of age, in that less than half the DNA carried the splice-site mutation (P < .002, vs. original B cell line). Consistent with mosaicism, erythrocyte content of the toxic metabolite deoxyATP was only minimally elevated. Somatic mosaicism could have arisen either by somatic mutation or by reversion at the site of mutation. Selection in vivo for ADA normal hematopoietic cells may have played a role in the return to normal health, in the absence of therapy.

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