Detection of paternally inherited fetal point mutations for beta-thalassemia using size-fractionated cell-free DNA in maternal plasma

JAMA. 2005 Feb 16;293(7):843-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.293.7.843.


Context: Currently, fetal point mutations cannot be reliably analyzed from circulatory fetal DNA in maternal plasma, due to the predominance of maternal DNA sequences. However, analysis of circulatory fetal DNA sequences in maternal plasma have been shown to selectively enrich for fetal DNA molecules on the basis of a smaller molecular size than maternal DNA.

Objective: To examine the prenatal analysis of 4 common beta-thalassemia point mutations: IVSI-1, IVSI-6, IVSI-110, and codon 39.

Design, setting, and patients: A total of 32 maternal blood samples were collected at 10 to 12 weeks of gestation (mean, 10.7 weeks) between February 15, 2003, and February 25, 2004, in Bari, Italy, from women with risk for beta-thalassemia in their newborns immediately prior to chorionic villous sampling. Samples in which the father and mother did not carry the same mutation were examined. Circulatory DNA was size-fractionated by gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplified with a peptide-nucleic-acid clamp, which suppresses amplification of the normal maternal allele. Presence of the paternal mutant allele was detected by allele-specific real-time PCR.

Main outcome measure: Detection of paternally inherited beta-globin gene point mutations.

Results: Presence or absence of the paternal mutant allele was correctly determined in 6 (86%) of 7 cases with the IVSI-1 mutation, 4 (100%) of 4 with the IVSI-6 mutation, 5 (100%) of 5 with the IVSI-110 mutation, and 13 (81%) of 16 with the codon 39 mutation. One false-positive test result was scored for the IVSI-1 mutation. Two cases with the codon 39 mutation were classified as uncertain and 1 case was excluded due to lack of a diagnostic test result at the time of analysis. These results yielded an overall sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 93.8%, with classified cases removed.

Conclusion: Our recently described technique of the size-fractionation of circulatory DNA in maternal plasma may be potentially useful for the noninvasive prenatal determination of fetal point mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chorionic Villi Sampling
  • DNA / blood*
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Point Mutation / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • beta-Thalassemia / genetics*


  • DNA