Autosomal-recessive agammaglobulinemia is a rare and heterogeneous disorder, characterized by early-onset infections, profound hypogammaglobulinemia of all immunoglobulin isotypes and absence of circulating B lymphocytes. To investigate the molecular basis of the disease, 23 patients with early-onset disease and no mutations in Bruton tyrosine kinase, the gene responsible for X-linked agammaglobulinemia, were selected and analyzed by direct sequencing of candidate genes. Two novel mutations in the μ heavy chain (μHC) gene (IGHM) were identified in three patients belonging to two unrelated families. A fourth patient carries a previously described G>A nucleotide substitution at the -1 position of an alternative splice site in IGHM; here, we demonstrate that this mutation is indeed responsible for aberrant splicing. Comparison of bone marrow cytofluorimetric profiles in two patients carrying different mutations in the IGHM gene suggests a genotype-phenotype correlation with the stage at which B-cell development is blocked. Several new single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) both in the μHC and in the λ5-like/VpreB-coding genes were identified. Two unrelated patients carry compound heterozygous variations in the VpreB1 gene that may be involved in disease ethiology.
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