Genetic variation in the ABCR (ABCA4) gene has been associated with five distinct retinal phenotypes, including Stargardt disease/fundus flavimaculatus (STGD/FFM), cone-rod dystrophy (CRD), and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Comparative genetic analyses of ABCR variation and diagnostics have been complicated by substantial allelic heterogeneity and by differences in screening methods. To overcome these limitations, we designed a genotyping microarray (gene chip) for ABCR that includes all approximately 400 disease-associated and other variants currently described, enabling simultaneous detection of all known ABCR variants. The ABCR genotyping microarray (the ABCR400 chip) was constructed by the arrayed primer extension (APEX) technology. Each sequence change in ABCR was included on the chip by synthesis and application of sequence-specific oligonucleotides. We validated the chip by screening 136 confirmed STGD patients and 96 healthy controls, each of whom we had analyzed previously by single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) technology and/or heteroduplex analysis. The microarray was >98% effective in determining the existing genetic variation and was comparable to direct sequencing in that it yielded many sequence changes undetected by SSCP. In STGD patient cohorts, the efficiency of the array to detect disease-associated alleles was between 54% and 78%, depending on the ethnic composition and degree of clinical and molecular characterization of a cohort. In addition, chip analysis suggested a high carrier frequency (up to 1:10) of ABCR variants in the general population. The ABCR genotyping microarray is a robust, cost-effective, and comprehensive screening tool for variation in one gene in which mutations are responsible for a substantial fraction of retinal disease. The ABCR chip is a prototype for the next generation of screening and diagnostic tools in ophthalmic genetics, bridging clinical and scientific research.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.