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Am J Med Genet. 1997 Mar 17;69(2):196-9.

Molecular basis of asymptomatic beta-thalassemia major in an African American individual.

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Cardeza Foundation for Hematologic Research, Department of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


The beta-thalassemia syndromes are a heterogeneous group of genetic disorders characterized by reduced or absent expression of the beta-globin gene. To date, over 300 beta-thalassemia alleles have been characterized in or around the beta-globin region. Thalassemia major is severe anemia necessitating chronic blood transfusions, splenectomy, iron chelation therapy, and bone marrow transplantation. Usually thalassemia major results from homozygosity or compound heterozygosity for severe betaO- and/or beta+-thalassemia mutations. Thalassemia intermedia is a clinical diagnosis that describes a symptomatic but less severe condition than beta-thalassemia major. beta-thalassemia intermedia may arise from several different combinations of alpha- and/or beta-thalassemia mutations. Heterozygous beta-thalassemia is typically characterized by a mild microcytic hypochromic anemia without any significant clinical implications. In this report, we describe a 63-year-old Africian American woman with asymptomatic homozygous beta-thalassemia, who seems to carry 2 copies of the -29 mutation in the promoter region of the beta-globin gene. Her elevated hemoglobin F level of 83% was associated with heterozygosity for the Xmn I polymorphism upstream of the Ggamma-globin gene. Southern blot analysis at the alpha-globin locus did not show any deletion that would account for the mildness of her phenotype. Therefore, homozygosity for the -29 mutation along with the Xmn I polymorphism appears to confer an extremely mild beta-thalassemia phenotype. This observation has important implications in the prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling of families segregating this type of genetic defect.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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