The importance of autosomal genes in Kallmann syndrome: genotype-phenotype correlations and neuroendocrine characteristics

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Apr;86(4):1532-8. doi: 10.1210/jcem.86.4.7420.


Kallmann syndrome (KS) consists of congenital, isolated, idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH) and anosmia. The gene responsible for the X-linked form of KS, KAL, encodes a protein, anosmin, that plays a key role in the migration of GnRH neurons and olfactory nerves to the hypothalamus. In addition to X-linked pedigrees, autosomal dominant and recessive kindreds with KS have been reported. The relative importance of these autosomal vs. X-linked genes in producing KS, and the frequency of KAL mutations, are currently unknown because these are rare disorders and large series are unusual. We examined 101 individuals with IHH (+/- anosmia) and their families to determine their modes of inheritance, incidence of mutations in the coding sequence of KAL, genotype-phenotype correlations, and [in a subset (n = 38)] their neuroendocrine phenotype. Of the 101 patients, 59 had true KS (IHH + anosmia/hyposmia); whereas, in the remaining 42, no anosmia was evident in the patients or their families. Of the 59 KS patients, 21 were familial, whereas 38 were sporadic cases. Mutations in the coding sequence of KAL were identified in only 3 of 21 familial cases (14%) and 4 of 38 (11%) of the sporadic cases. Of the X-linked cases confirmed by mutational analysis, only 1 of 3 pedigrees appeared X-linked by inspection whereas the other 2 contained only affected brothers. Female members of known KAL mutation families (n = 3) exhibited no reproductive phenotype and were not anosmic, whereas families with anosmic women (n = 3) were not found to carry mutations in KAL. Mutations were uniformly absent in nonanosmic IHH probands (n = 42), as well as in families with both anosmic and nonanosmic members (n = 2). Overall, 4 novel mutations were identified (C172R, R191x, R457x, and delC@L600). With respect to neuroendocrine phenotype, KS men with documented KAL mutations (n = 8) had completely apulsatile LH secretion, whereas those with autosomal modes of inheritance demonstrated a more variable spectrum with evidence of enfeebled (but present) GnRH-induced LH pulses. Our conclusions are: 1) Confirmed mutations in the coding sequence of the KAL gene occur in the minority of KS cases, i.e. only 14% of familial and 11% of sporadic cases; 2) The majority of familial (and presumably sporadic) cases of KS are caused by defects in at least two autosomal genes that are currently unknown; 3) Obligate female carriers in families with KAL mutations have no discernible phenotype; 4) KAL mutations are uniformly absent in patients with either normosmic IHH or in families with both anosmic and nonanosmic individuals; and 5) Patients with KAL mutations have apulsatile LH secretion consistent with a complete absence of GnRH migration of GnRH cells into the hypothalamus, whereas evidence of present (but enfeebled) GnRH-induced LH pulses may be present in autosomal KS cases. Taken together, these findings suggest that autosomal genes account for the majority of familial cases of KS, and that unique neuroendocrine phenotypes consistent with some GnRH neuronal migration may exist in these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Kallmann Syndrome / genetics*
  • Kallmann Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology*
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Genetic