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Eur J Hum Genet. 2004 Dec;12(12):1015-23.

New insights on the evolution of the SMN1 and SMN2 region: simulation and meta-analysis for allele and haplotype frequency calculations.

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Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Most spinal muscular atrophy patients lack both copies of SMN1. Loss of SMN1 ('0-copy alleles') can occur by gene deletion or SMN1-to-SMN2 gene conversion. Despite worldwide efforts to map the segmental duplications within the SMN region, most assemblies do not correctly delineate these genes. A near pericentromeric location provides impetus for the strong evidence that SMN1 and SMN2 arose from a primate-specific paralogous gene duplication. Here we meta-analyzed our recent laboratory results together with available published data, in order to calculate new mutation rates and allele/haplotype frequencies in this recalcitrant and highly unstable region of the human genome. Based on our tested assumption of compliance with Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, we conclude that the SMN1 allele frequencies are: '0-copy disease alleles,' 0.013; '1-copy normal alleles,' 0.95; '2-copy normal alleles (ie, two copies of SMN1 on one chromosome),' 0.038; and '1(D) disease alleles (SMN1 with a small intragenic mutation),' 0.00024. The SMN1 haplotype ['(SMN1 copy number)-(SMN2 copy number)'] frequencies are: '0-0,' 0.00048; '0-1,' 0.0086; '0-2,' 0.0042; '1-0,' 0.27; '1-1,' 0.66; '1-2,' 0.015; '2-0,' 0.027; and '2-1,' 0.012. Paternal and maternal de novo mutation rates are 2.1 x 10(-4) and 4.2 x 10(-5), respectively. Our data provide the basis for the most accurate genetic risk calculations, as well as new insights on the evolution of the SMN region, with evidence that nucleotide position 840 (where a transition 840C>T functionally distinguishes SMN2 from SMN1) constitutes a mutation hotspot. Our data also suggest selection of the 1-1 haplotype and the presence of rare chromosomes with three copies of SMN1.

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