First published July 1, 1987 - More info
An American black woman was found to have the phenotype of moderately severe alpha-thalassemia normally associated with the loss of two to three alpha-globin genes despite an alpha-globin gene map that demonstrated the loss of only a single alpha-globin gene (-alpha/alpha alpha). Several individuals in her kindred with normal alpha-globin gene mapping studies (alpha alpha/alpha alpha) had mild alpha-thalassemia hematologic values consistent with the loss of one to two alpha-globin genes. These data suggested the presence of a nondeletion alpha-thalassemia defect in this family which segregates with the intact alpha alpha gene cluster. An abnormally migrating and highly unstable alpha-globin gene product was demonstrated by in vitro translation of the reticulocyte mRNA from the proposita and this mutant alpha-globin protein was mapped to the alpha 2-globin gene by hybrid-selected translation. The abnormal alpha 2-globin gene was cloned and sequenced. A single base mutation that results in a premature termination codon was identified at codon 116 (GAG----UAG). The defined alpha-globin genotype of the proposita (-alpha/alpha 116UAG alpha) and the positioning of this nonsense mutation at the alpha 2-globin gene locus are fully consistent with the observed alpha-thalassemia phenotype.