Molecular genetic basis and prevalence of glycogen storage disease type IIIA in the Faroe Islands

Eur J Hum Genet. 2001 May;9(5):388-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200632.


Glycogen storage disease type IIIA (GSD IIIA) is caused by mutations of the amyloglucosidase gene (AGL). For most populations, none of the AGL mutations described to date is particularly frequent. In this paper, we report that six children with GSD IIIA from the Faroe Islands were found to be homozygous for the novel nonsense mutation c.1222C>T (R408X) of the AGL gene. This mutation is easily detected by restriction enzyme digest with NsiI after mismatch PCR. Investigating five intragenic polymorphisms, we could show that this mutation was always associated with the same haplotype. The c.1222C>T mutation could be detected on two chromosomes of another 50 unselected GSD IIIA patients of other European or North American origin which means that this mutation plays a minor role worldwide. From the fact that we are currently aware of a total of 14 GSD IIIA cases in the Faroese population of 45 000, the observed prevalence is 1 : 3100. While the novel AGL mutation c.1222C>T was not detectable among 198 German newborns, nine out of 272 children from the Faroese neonatal screening program were found to be heterozygous for this mutation. Thus, the calculated prevalence is 1 : 3600 (95% CI 1:700-1:6400). We conclude that due to a founder effect, the Faroe Islands have the highest prevalence of GSD IIIA world-wide. The detection of the molecular defect has facilitated the diagnosis and has offered the opportunity for prenatal diagnosis in this patient group.

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Nonsense*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Founder Effect
  • Gene Frequency
  • Glucan 1,4-alpha-Glucosidase / genetics*
  • Glycogen Debranching Enzyme System / genetics
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type III / epidemiology
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type III / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Norway / ethnology
  • Prevalence


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Glycogen Debranching Enzyme System
  • Glucan 1,4-alpha-Glucosidase