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Am J Hum Genet. 1990 Apr;46(4):661-71.

Unilateral microfibrillar abnormalities in a case of asymmetric Marfan syndrome.

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Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children, Portland.


The Marfan syndrome is a dominantly inherited connective-tissue disorder characterized by ocular, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal abnormalities. Although the underlying biochemical and molecular defect(s) of this pleiotropic disease is currently unknown, we have consistently observed apparent diminished content of elastin-associated microfibrillar fibers accumulating in skin, or produced by cultured fibroblasts, from patients with the Marfan syndrome and have documented the cosegregation of these immunofluorescent abnormalities of microfibrillar fibers with the Marfan syndrome phenotype in family studies. Recently, an unusual patient has been described with unilateral phenotypic features of the Marfan syndrome, providing an unique opportunity to compare microfibrillar fibers and other connective-tissue components between the affected and nonaffected sides. In the present report, we demonstrate striking differences in apparent content of microfibrillar fibers, as determined by indirect immunofluorescence of skin and fibroblast cultures, that are revealed when multiple homologous samples derived from different sides of the patient's body are compared. In contrast, no differences in apparent content of type III collagen or in the biosynthesis and apparent structure of types I and III (pro)collagens were found. HLA types and chromosome heteromorphisms were identical in fibroblasts from both sides of the body, eliminating the formal possibility of chimerism and suggesting that a postzygotic mutation accounts for the asymmetric manifestation of the Marfan syndrome in this patient. The observation of striking decreases in microfibrillar fibers on the affected side of the body provides further evidence that abnormalities of this component of the elastic fiber system may be central to the pathogenesis and possibly the etiology of the Marfan syndrome.

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