Evaluation of the fragile X (FRAXA) syndrome with methylation-sensitive PCR

Hum Genet. 2001 Jun;108(6):450-8. doi: 10.1007/s004390100519.


The fragile X (FRAXA) syndrome is the most common form of inherited mental retardation in males. Its peculiar pattern of inheritance results from the parent of origin-specific expansion of a CGG-repeat within the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome. In patients, gene function is abolished by hypermethylation of the promoter and the massively expanded repeat. We have developed a methylation-sensitive polymerase chain reaction (MS-PCR) strategy that combines repeat-length and methylation analysis of the CGG-repeat and the promoters of the FMR1 and XIST genes. The allelic methylation of the latter opposes that of the FMR promoter and serves as an internal control and standard for semiquantitative analyses. This system enables the delineation of 11 distinct patterns encountered in nonaffected, carrier, and affected males and females. We have evaluated our system on well-defined samples with different FMR1 mutations and have used it for the diagnostic evaluation of 253 male and 80 female probands. In the male group, we have identified five full mutations, and three gray-zone and premutation alleles with 54, 55, and 62 repeats, respectively. The female group consists of 33 normal homozygote and 41 heterozygote individuals, two of whom harbor a gray-zone allele with 47 repeats, none with a premutation, and six with a full mutation. Our MS-PCR approach allows the currently most comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of the FRAXA syndrome in a cost- and time-efficient fashion. In addition, it is a valuable tool for the analysis of clonality and skewing phenomena in females.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Dosage Compensation, Genetic
  • Female
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • Fragile X Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics


  • FMR1 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • DNA