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Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: molecular mechanisms resulting in 21-hydroxylase deficiency.


21-Hydroxylase deficiency resulting in congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a HLA-linked autosomal recessive disorder that has a wide range of phenotypic expression. Two homologous 21-hydroxylase genes (21-OHA and 21-OHB) occur within the Class III region of the major histocompatibility complex, but only one (21-OHB) appears to function in adrenal steroidogenesis. Our restriction maps, and initial sequence data from White et al. (Pediatr Res 20:274A (1986)) for the two human 21-OH genes reveal a high degree of homology between these genes and a reading frame shift mutation in the 21-OHA gene respectively. Among fourteen control subjects, the intragenic restriction patterns of the 21-OHA and 21-OHB genes are invariant. The few restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) found in some controls result from polymorphic restriction sites outside the 21-OH genes. In patients with CAH, several different mechanisms for mutation of the 21-OHB gene have been described: deletion of the unique sequences of the 21-OHB gene, conversion of the unique sequences of the 21-OHB gene to those of 21-OHA, and mutations of 21-OHB which do not result in a detectable alteration of restriction pattern (e.g., point mutations). Duplication of the 21-OHA gene has been found in some patients with attenuated CAH; however, the significance of this finding remains unclear.

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