β-Thalassemia, the most common hereditary anemia in the Mediterranean area, results from over 200 causative mutations in the β-globin locus. The aim of this study was to validate a denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (dHPLC)-based assay for postnatal and prenatal molecular diagnosis of β-thalassemia in Southern Italy. Sixty β-thalassemic patients, affected either by thalassemia intermedia or thalassemia major, were analyzed in a blind study. We also carried out prenatal molecular diagnosis in 12 couples at-risk for having affected offspring. Chorionic villi samples were subjected to dHPLC analysis upon molecular characterization of the parental β-globin alleles. Direct sequence analysis was used to validate each result, showing an accuracy rate of 100% for dHPLC. Overall, our protocol was able to identify the responsible mutations in all 96 analyzed subjects (including 12 prenatals in at-risk pregnancies), detecting the eight most common mutations in Southern Italy. Three rare mutations (one of which, reported here for the first time) that standard mutation detection methods failed to reveal, were also identified. dHPLC assay proved to be a reliable, rapid, and sensitive method for detecting both common and rare mutations within the β-globin gene. Because of this property our protocol has the potential to be implemented for mutational screening in different areas of high prevalence for β-thalassemia.
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