Context: Anecdotal evidence suggests a high incidence in Trentino, Italy, of head and neck paragangliomas (HNPGL), a rare autosomal dominant disease called paraganglioma type 1 syndrome and caused by germ-line mutations of the SDHD gene. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the origin, spread, and clinical expression of the disease in this geographic region. Design, Setting, and Participants: Trentino natives with HNPGL were recruited for establishing clinical expression of the disease, presence of a founder effect, and age of common ancestor. A large sample of the local population was recruited for determination of mutation prevalence and spread. Main Outcome Measures: SDHD genetic testing was offered to first-degree relatives, and clinical surveillance was offered to at-risk carriers. The hypothesis of a founder effect was explored by haplotype analysis, and time to the most recent common ancestor was estimated by decay of haplotype sharing over time. Results: A total of 287 of the 540 recruited individuals from 95 kindreds carried the SDHDc.341A>G p.Tyr114Cys mutation. The prevalent phenotype was bilateral or multiple HNPGL, with low prevalence of pheochromocytoma and malignant forms. Penetrance was high. A common ancestor was dated between the 14th and 15th century, with the mutation spreading from the Mocheni Valley, a geographic, cultural and, presumably, a genetic isolate to 1.5% of the region's population. Conclusions: A combination of particular demographic, geographical, and historical conditions has resulted in the oldest and largest SDHD founder effect so far characterized and has transformed a rare disease into an endemic disease with major public health implications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism