Fanconi anemia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by progressive pancytopenia, congenital malformations, and predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia. At least five complementation groups (FA-A-FA-E) have been identified. The relative prevalence of FA-A has been estimated at an average of ~65% but may widely vary according to ethnic background. In Italy, 11 of 12 patients analyzed by cell-fusion studies were assigned to group FA-A, suggesting an unusually high relative prevalence of this FA subtype in patients of Italian ancestry. We have screened the 43 exons of the FAA gene and their flanking intronic sequences in 38 Italian FA patients, using RNA-SSCP. Ten different mutations were detected: three nonsense and one missense substitutions, four putative splice mutations, an insertion, and a duplication. Most of the mutations are expected to cause a premature termination of the FAA protein at various sites throughout the molecule. Four protein variants were also found, three of which were polymorphisms. The missense mutation D1359Y, not found in chromosomes from healthy unrelated individuals, was responsible for a local alteration of hydrophobicity in the FAA protein, and it was likely to be pathogenic. Thus, the mutations so far encountered in the FAA gene are essentially all different. Since screening based on the analysis of single exons by genomic DNA amplification apparently detects only a minority of the mutations, methods designed to detect alterations in the genomic structure of the gene or in the FAA polypeptide may be helpful in the identification of FAA mutations.
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