Usher syndrome (USH) is a combination of a progressive pigmentary retinopathy, indistinguishable from retinitis pigmentosa, and some degree of sensorineural hearing loss. USH can be subdivided in Usher type I (USHI), type II (USHII) and type III (USHIII), all of which are inherited as autosomal recessive traits. The three subtypes are genetically heterogeneous, with six loci so far identified for USHI, three for USHII and only one for USHIII. Mutations in a novel gene, USH2A, encoding the protein usherin, have recently been shown to be associated with USHII. The gene encodes a protein with partial sequence homology to both laminin epidermal growth factor and fibronectin motifs. We analysed 35 British and one Pakistani Usher type II families with at least one affected member, for sequence changes in the 20 translated exons of the USH2A gene, using heteroduplex analysis and sequencing. Probable disease-causing mutations in USH2A were identified in 15 of 36 (41.7%) Usher II families. The most frequently encountered mutation (11/15 families or 11/18 mutated alleles) was del2299G in exon 13, resulting in a frameshift and premature stop codon. Other mutations include insertions and point mutations, of which two are previously unreported. Five different polymorphisms were also detected. Our results indicate that mutations in this gene are responsible for disease in a large proportion of British Usher type II patients. Moreover, if screening for mutations in USH2A is considered, it is sensible to screen for the del2299G mutation first.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.