Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1), an autosomal dominant disease, exhibits extreme clinical variability. This variability greatly increases the burden for affected families and impairs our ability to understand the pathogenesis of NF1. Recognition of heterogeneity within a disease may provide important pathogenic insights, therefore we tested clinical data from three large sets of NF1 patients for evidence that certain common features are more likely to occur in some NF1 patients than in others. Clinical information on 4,402 patients with NF1 was obtained from three independent databases. We examined associations between pairs of clinical features in individual affected probands. We also examined associations between the occurrence of individual features in affected relatives. Associations were summarized as odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals. We found associations between several pairs of features in affected probands: intertriginous freckling and Lisch nodules, discrete neurofibromas and plexiform neurofibromas, discrete neurofibromas and Lisch nodules, plexiform neurofibromas and scoliosis, learning disability or mental retardation and seizures. We also found associations between the occurrence of Lisch nodules, macrocephaly, short stature, and learning disability or mental retardation as individual features in parents and children with NF1. Our observations suggest that, contrary to established belief, some NF1 patients are more likely than others to develop particular manifestations of the disease. Genetic factors appear to determine the development of particular phenotypic features.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.