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Research Article

Structure and distribution of an Alu-type deletion mutation in Sandhoff disease.

K Neote, B McInnes, D J Mahuran and R A Gravel

Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Published November 1990

Sandhoff disease is a recessively inherited lysosomal storage disease resulting from a deficiency of beta-hexosaminidase activity. The enzyme occurs in two major forms, beta-hexosaminidase A, composed of an alpha- and beta-subunit and beta-hexosaminidase B, composed of two beta-subunits. Both isozyme activities are deficient in Sandhoff disease, owing to mutations of the HEXB gene encoding the common beta-subunit. We have cloned and fully characterized a deletion at the HEXB gene from fibroblasts of a patient with the infantile form of Sandhoff disease. The deletion removes approximately 16 kb of DNA including the HEXB promoter, exons 1-5 and part of intron 5. It most likely arose from recombination between two Alu sequences, with the breakpoints occurring at the midpoint between the left and right arms in each case and regenerating an intact Alu element in the deletion sequence. The deletion allele accounts for 27% of the Sandhoff mutant alleles we analyzed. Two cell lines were shown to be homozygous for the deletion and both had the infantile form of the disease. Four additional patients were compound heterozygotes with other mutations, all of whom displayed a different clinical phenotype. Finally, the mutant allele was present in different ethnic backgrounds, suggesting that it may have been subject to genetic drift.

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