Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene studies are now one of the most frequent activities in clinical molecular genetics laboratories. The number of requests is growing, owing to the increasingly wide range of recognized CFTR gene diseases (cystic fibrosis, congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens, disseminated bronchiectasis, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and chronic pancreatitis), and the availability of efficient molecular tools for detecting mutations. A growing number of tests capable of simultaneously detecting several frequent CF mutations are being developed, and commercial kits are now available. The most recent kits detect nearly 90% of defective alleles in Caucasians, a rate high enough for carrier screening and for the majority of diagnostic requests. However, because of the wide variety of molecular defects documented in the CFTR gene, only a limited number of laboratories have mastered the entire panoply of necessary techniques, while other laboratories have to refer certain cases to specialized centers with complementary and/or scanning tools at their disposal. A good knowledge of CFTR diseases and their molecular mechanisms, together with expertise in the various techniques, is crucial for interpreting the results. Diagnostic strategies must take into account the indication, the patient's ethnic origin, and the time available in the framework of genetic counseling. This review presents the methods most frequently used for detecting CFTR gene mutations, and discusses the strategies most suited to the different clinical settings.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.