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Am J Hum Genet. 2001 May;68(5):1093-101. Epub 2001 Apr 17.

MECP2 mutations in sporadic cases of Rett syndrome are almost exclusively of paternal origin.

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  • 1Institute of Human Genetics, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Germany.


Rett syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder that apparently is lethal in male embryos. RTT almost exclusively affects female offspring and, in 99.5% of all cases, is sporadic and due to de novo mutations in the MECP2 gene. Familial cases of RTT are rare and are due to X-chromosomal inheritance from a carrier mother. We analyzed the parental origin of MECP2 mutations in sporadic cases of RTT, by analysis of linkage between the mutation in the MECP2 gene and intronic polymorphisms in 27 families with 15 different mutations, and we found a high predominance of mutations of paternal origin in 26 of 27 cases (P<.001). The paternal origin was independent of type of mutation and was found for single-base exchanges as well as for deletions. Parents were not of especially advanced age. We conclude that de novo mutations in RTT occur almost exclusively on the paternally derived X chromosome and that this is most probably the cause for the high female:male ratio observed in patients with RTT. Affected males recently have been described in a few cases of familial inheritance. Identification of the parental origin may be useful to distinguish between the sporadic form of RTT and a potentially familial form. This distinction will allow geneticists to offer more-specific counseling and discriminate between higher (maternal origin) and lower (paternal origin) recurrence risk.

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