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Advances in research on the fragile X syndrome.

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1
Department of Developmental Cognitive Neurology, Kennedy Krieger Institute; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. m4@brainlab.kennedykreiger.org

Abstract

Fragile X syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that results from a single gene mutation on the X chromosome. The purpose of this review is to summarize key advances made in understanding the fragile X premutation gene seen in carriers and the full mutation gene seen in persons with the syndrome. DNA testing has replaced cytogenetic testing as the primary method for identification of fragile X, although the efficacy of protein level screening is being explored. The premutation is associated with no effects, although there is evidence of physical effects-primarily premature menopause and mild outward features of the fragile X syndrome-among premutation carriers. There is much controversy regarding premutation effects on psychological development. The few experimental studies carried out to date do not suggest noticeable or significant effects. One challenge in addressing this controversy is the sometimes ambiguous differentiation between premutation and full mutation genes. There is a well-established yet highly variable phenotype of the full mutation. Research from this decade has helped to address specific aspects of this phenotype, including the early course of its development in males, the influence of home and family environments, the nature of social difficulties and autistic features seen in boys and girls with fragile X, and the potential role of hyperarousal or hyper-reactivity. Studies in these areas, and on the role of FMR protein, will contribute towards ongoing advances in our understanding of fragile X syndrome and its mechanisms. The variability in physical, social, and cognitive features, as described in this review, is one that prohibits clear-cut screening guidelines designed to avoid high rates of both false positives and false negatives. Results from recent studies indicate the need to consider behavioral features in selecting candidates for fragile X screening. MRDD Research Reviews 2000;6:96-106.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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