The fragile X mental retardation syndrome is caused by an expansion of a trinucleotide repeat (CGG)n in the FMR-1 gene. Molecular genetic study of fragile X provides accurate diagnosis and facilitates genetic counseling in families with affected members. We present here the molecular study of 59 Spanish fragile X syndrome families using probe StB 12.3 and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the (CGG)n repeat sequence of the FMR-1 gene. The results obtained have allowed us to characterize 455 individuals, including eight prenatal diagnoses. The clinical diagnosis of fragile X in 89 affected males was confirmed, 137 female carriers were identified (48 of whom were mentally retarded), 176 individuals "at risk" were found not to have the expansion, and 12 cases of normal transmitting males (NTM) were detected. In the sample studied, no de novo mutations were detected, nor any mutation different from that described for the (CGG)n expansion. One nonmentally retarded male was detected as having an unmethylated CpG island for the FMR-1 gene, but with more than 200 CGG repeats (high functioning male). The analysis of the (CGG)n repeat in 208 normal chromosomes gave an allele distribution similar to that in other Caucasoid population groups, with alleles of 29 and 30 CGG repeats accounting for 46% of the chromosomes. The combination of Southern analysis and PCR of the (CGG)n repeat is highly efficient for diagnosis, compared with cytogenetic techniques, especially in the detection of female carriers, NTMs, and prenatal diagnosis, enabling accurate genetic counseling to be provided in all cases.
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