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Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Nov;73(5):1061-72. Epub 2003 Oct 14.

Molecular and fluorescence in situ hybridization characterization of the breakpoints in 46 large supernumerary marker 15 chromosomes reveals an unexpected level of complexity.

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Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, United Kingdom.


Supernumerary marker chromosomes (SMCs) of chromosome 15, designated "SMC(15)s," are the most common SMC in humans, accounting for as much as 60% of all those observed. We report the characterization of 46 large SMC(15)s, using both fluorescence in situ hybridization and polymerase chain reaction analysis within and distal to the Prader-Willi/Angelman syndrome critical region (PWACR). Our aim was to establish detailed information on origin, content, and breakpoints, to address the formation of SMC(15)s, and to facilitate genotype-phenotype correlations. For all patients in whom we were able to establish the parental origin, the SMC(15)s were maternally derived. Two patients were observed who had familial SMC(15)s, both inherited from the mother; however, in all remaining patients for whom parental samples were available, the SMC(15)s were shown to have arisen de novo. With one exception, all the SMC(15)s were shown to include the entire PWACR. Detailed investigations of the distal breakpoints categorized the SMC(15)s into two groups. Group A, representing approximately two-thirds of the SMC(15)s, had a breakpoint beyond the standard distal PWS/AS deletion breakpoint BP3, at a position close to the microsatellite marker D15S1010 and the bacterial artificial chromosome 10I10. The group B SMC(15)s were shorter, with more variable breakpoints located around BP3. The majority of the SMC(15)s were shown to have asymmetrical breakpoints, with the two inverted arms of the SMC being unequal in length. Our study revealed an unexpected level of complexity and heterogeneity among SMC(15)s that is not seen in other chromosome 15 rearrangements, such as deletions and duplications. This suggests that multiple mechanisms are involved in the formation of large SMC(15)s.

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