A 4-bp deletion in the Birt-Hogg-Dubé gene (FLCN) causes dominantly inherited spontaneous pneumothorax

Am J Hum Genet. 2005 Mar;76(3):522-7. doi: 10.1086/428455. Epub 2005 Jan 18.


Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP), a condition in which air enters the pleural space and causes secondary lung collapse, is mostly sporadic but also occurs in families. The precise etiology of PSP remains unknown, although it is associated with emphysemalike changes (bullae) in the lungs of almost all patients. We describe the results of a genetic study of a large Finnish family with a dominantly inherited tendency to PSP. A genomewide scan suggested linkage to chromosome 17p11. Screening of the best candidate gene, FLCN, revealed a 4-bp deletion in the first coding exon, which causes a frameshift that predicts a protein truncation 50 missense amino acids downstream. All carriers of the deletion had bullous lung lesions. Mutations in FLCN are also responsible for Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome (a dominantly inherited disease characterized by benign skin tumors, PSP, and diverse types of renal cancer) and, rarely, are detected in sporadic renal and colorectal tumors. Unlike other FLCN mutations, the exon 4 deletion seems to be associated with bullous lung changes only with 100% penetrance. These results suggest that changes in FLCN may have an important role in the development of PSP and, more importantly, of emphysema, a chronic pulmonary disease that often leads to formation of bullous lesions and lowered pulmonary function. Additionally, given the strong association of PSP and BHD, the connection between these conditions needs to be investigated further, particularly in patients with familial PSP, who may be at a greater risk of developing renal cancer.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / genetics
  • Exons
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Pneumothorax / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Sequence Deletion*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • FLCN protein, human
  • Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • DNA

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF517523
  • OMIM/173600
  • RefSeq/NM_144997