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Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet. 2007 Nov 15;145C(4):327-34.

Cryptic telomere imbalance: a 15-year update.

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Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, 615 Michael Street, Suite 301, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


It has been 15 years since we proposed that assays of telomere integrity might reveal cryptic translocations and deletions as a significant cause of mental retardation (MR) in patients with normal G-banded karyotypes. Development of unique genomic probes adjacent to the subtelomeric repeats of each chromosome arm allowed multiplex FISH analyses that confirmed such cryptic telomeric imbalances in 3-6% of all unexplained MR. Although such "telomere FISH" analysis quickly became standard of care, limitations of this technology platform included a lack of information on the size and gene content of the deleted/duplicated segments and the failure to detect interstitial deletions not involving the most distal unique clone. The development of "molecular ruler" clone sets for every human telomere provided the foundation for accurate determination of size and gene content of each imbalance, as well as the detection of interstitial deletions within these regions. Array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) has emerged as a powerful technology to assess single copy changes (monosomy or trisomy) at targeted loci such as telomeres or across the whole genome. This technology now replaces multiplex FISH for the assessment of telomere integrity in unexplained MR and has the advantage of efficiently determining the size and gene content of the imbalance, as well as detecting interstitial deletions near telomeres or anywhere else in the genome covered by the array design. The application of aCGH in several studies of unexplained MR has confirmed that telomere imbalances are overrepresented compared to "average" chromosomal regions, although this is likely due to random chromosome breakage rather than specific molecular mechanisms associated with the genomic architecture of human telomeres. Telomere imbalances are significantly larger than initially envisioned ( approximately 40% are >5 Mb in size), and indicate the analytic sensitivity of the G-banded karyotype is much lower than previously thought. Finally, experience with smaller benign variants compared to larger pathogenic imbalances at telomeres serves as a model for approaching whole-genome aCGH in a clinical setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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