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Am J Hum Genet. 1992 Jul;51(1):81-91.

Nonsense-codon mutations of the ornithine aminotransferase gene with decreased levels of mutant mRNA in gyrate atrophy.

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, FL 33136.


A generalized deficiency of the mitochondrial matrix enzyme ornithine aminotransferase (OAT) is the inborn error in gyrate atrophy (GA), an autosomal recessive degenerative disease of the retina and choroid of the eye. Mutations in the OAT gene show a high degree of molecular heterogeneity in GA, reflecting the genetic heterogeneity in this disease. Using the combined techniques of PCR, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, and direct sequencing, we have identified three nonsense-codon mutations and one nonsense codon-generating mutation of the OAT gene in GA pedigrees. Three of them are single-base substitutions, and one is a 2-bp deletion resulting in a reading frameshift. A nonsense codon created at position 79 (TGA) by a frameshift and nonsense mutations at codons 209 (TAT----TAA) and 299 (TAC----TAG) result in abnormally low levels of OAT mRNA in the patient's skin fibroblasts. A nonsense mutation at codon 426 (CGA----TGA) in the last exon, however, has little effect on the mRNA level. Thus, the mRNA level can be reduced by nonsense-codon mutations, but the position of the mutation may be important, with earlier premature-translation termination having a greater effect than a later mutation.

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