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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Aug;65(2):370-86.

Chromosome breakage in the Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes involves recombination between large, transcribed repeats at proximal and distal breakpoints.

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Department of Genetics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and Center for Human Genetics, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH 44106-4955, USA.


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and Angelman syndrome (AS) are distinct neurobehavioral disorders that most often arise from a 4-Mb deletion of chromosome 15q11-q13 during paternal or maternal gametogenesis, respectively. At a de novo frequency of approximately.67-1/10,000 births, these deletions represent a common structural chromosome change in the human genome. To elucidate the mechanism underlying these events, we characterized the regions that contain two proximal breakpoint clusters and a distal cluster. Novel DNA sequences potentially associated with the breakpoints were positionally cloned from YACs within or near these regions. Analyses of rodent-human somatic-cell hybrids, YAC contigs, and FISH of normal or rearranged chromosomes 15 identified duplicated sequences (the END repeats) at or near the breakpoints. The END-repeat units are derived from large genomic duplications of a novel gene (HERC2), many copies of which are transcriptionally active in germline tissues. One of five PWS/AS patients analyzed to date has an identifiable, rearranged HERC2 transcript derived from the deletion event. We postulate that the END repeats flanking 15q11-q13 mediate homologous recombination resulting in deletion. Furthermore, we propose that active transcription of these repeats in male and female germ cells may facilitate the homologous recombination process.

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