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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Jan;64(1):118-25.

Williams syndrome: use of chromosomal microdeletions as a tool to dissect cognitive and physical phenotypes.

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University Department of Medical Genetics and Regional Genetics Service, St. Mary's Hospital, Manchester, United Kingdom.


In Williams syndrome (WS), a deletion of approximately 1.5 Mb on one copy of chromosome 7 causes specific physical, cognitive, and behavioral abnormalities. Molecular dissection of the phenotype may be a route to identification of genes important in human cognition and behavior. Among the genes known to be deleted in WS are ELN (which encodes elastin), LIMK1 (which encodes a protein tyrosine kinase expressed in the developing brain), STX1A (which encodes a component of the synaptic apparatus), and FZD3. Study of patients with deletions or mutations confined to ELN showed that hemizygosity for elastin is responsible for the cardiological features of WS. LIMK1 and STX1A are good candidates for cognitive or behavioral aspects of WS. Here we describe genetic and psychometric testing of patients who have small deletions within the WS critical region. Our results suggest that neither LIMK1 hemizygosity (contrary to a previous report) nor STX1A hemizygosity is likely to contribute to any part of the WS phenotype, and they emphasize the importance of such patients for dissecting subtle but highly penetrant phenotypes.

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