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Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Aug;73(2):412-9. Epub 2003 Jul 3.

Mutations of von Hippel-Lindau tumor-suppressor gene and congenital polycythemia.

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Texas Children's Cancer Center and Hematology Service and Baylor College of Medicine and Veterans Administration Hospital, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.

Erratum in

  • Am J Hum Genet. 2004 Mar;74(3):598.


The von Hippel-Lindau (pVHL) protein plays an important role in hypoxia sensing. It binds to the hydroxylated hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha) and serves as a recognition component of an E3-ubiquitin ligase complex. In hypoxia or secondary to a mutated VHL gene, the nondegraded HIF-1 alpha forms a heterodimer with HIF-beta and leads to increased transcription of hypoxia-inducible genes, including erythropoietin (EPO). The autosomal dominant cancer-predisposition von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome is due to inheritance of a single mutated allele of VHL. In contrast, we recently showed that homozygous germline 598C-->T VHL mutation leads to Chuvash polycythemia (CP). We subsequently found VHL mutations in three unrelated individuals unaffected with CP, one of whom was compound heterozygous for the 598C-->T mutation and another VHL mutation. We now report seven additional polycythemic patients with VHL mutations in both alleles. Two Danish siblings and another American boy were homozygous for the VHL 598C-->T mutation. Three unrelated white Americans were compound heterozygotes for 598C-->T and another VHL mutation, 562C-->G in two and 574C-->T in the third. Additionally, a Croatian boy was homozygous for a 571C-->G VHL mutation, the first example of homozygous VHL germline mutation causing polycythemia, other than the VHL 598C-->T mutation. We have not observed VHL syndrome-associated tumors in polycythemic subjects or their heterozygous relatives; however, this will need to be evaluated by longitudinal studies. Over all, we found that up to half of the consecutive patients with apparent congenital polycythemia and increased serum Epo we have examined have mutations of both VHL alleles. Those findings, along with reports of CP, underscore that VHL mutations are the most frequent cause of congenital polycythemia and define a new class of polycythemic disorder, polycythemias due to augmented hypoxia sensing.

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