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FASEB J. 1992 Jul;6(10):2767-74.

Assessing the underlying pattern of human germline mutations: lessons from the factor IX gene.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.


Germline mutations cause or predispose to most disease. Hemophilia B is a useful model for studying the underlying pattern of recent germline mutations in humans because the observed pattern of mutation in factor IX more closely reflects the underlying pattern of mutation than the observed pattern for many other genes. In addition, it is possible to identify and correct for biases inherent in ascertaining only those mutations that cause hemophilia. Aspects of the pattern of germline mutation in the factor IX gene are becoming clear: 1) in the United States, two-thirds of mutations causing mild disease arose from three founders whereas almost all the mutations resulting in either moderate or severe disease arose independently, generally within the past 150 years; 2) direct estimates of the rates of mutation in humans indicate that transitions are more frequent than transversions, which in turn are more frequent than deletions and insertions; 3) transitions at CpG are elevated approximately 24-fold relative to transitions at non-CpG dinucleotides; 4) transversions at CpG are elevated approximately eightfold relative to transversions at non-CpG dinucleotides; 5) the sum total of the dinucleotide mutation rates produces a bias against G and C bases that would be sufficient to maintain the G+C content of the factor IX gene at its evolutionarily conserved level of 40%; and 6) the pattern of mutation is similar for Caucasians residing in the United States and for Asians residing in Asia. Two ideas emerge from this and from an analysis of the pattern of recent deleterious mutations compared with ancient neutral mutations that have been fixed during evolution into the factor IX gene. First, the bulk of germline mutations are likely to arise from endogenous processes rather than environmental mutagens. Second, the factor IX protein is composed mostly of two classes of amino acids: critical residues in which all single-base missense changes will disrupt protein function, and "spacer" residues in which the precise nature of the residue is unimportant but the peptide bond is necessary to keep the critical residues in register. More work is necessary to assess the veracity and generality of these ideas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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