Methylation and mutation patterns in the fragile X syndrome

Am J Med Genet. 1992;43(1-2):268-78. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.1320430142.


Chromosomes carrying the mutation causing the fragile X [fra(X)] syndrome have been shown to have an unstable DNA sequence close to or within the fragile site. The length variation is located within a DNA fragment containing a CGG trinucleotide repeat which is unstable in both mitosis and meiosis. We have used the probe StB12.3 from the region to analyze the mutations and the methylation patterns in 21 families segregating for the fra(X) syndrome. Among 40 fra(X) males all showed an abnormal pattern. The normal 2.8 kb band was absent in 36 individuals and replaced by a heterogeneous smear of larger size. The remaining four were shown to be "mosaics" with the presence of both mutated, unmethylated and mutated, methylated fragments. We found four normal transmitting males, one which was a great-grandson of another normal transmitting male indicating that the pre-mutation can remain stable through two meioses in the female. In nine fra(X) positive females the abnormal pattern consisted of a smear, usually seen in affected males, in addition to the normal bands. Five of these females were mentally normal. Of clinical importance is the prediction of mental impairment in females. We suggest that this is not made by the detection of the full mutation alone, but rather by the degree of methylation of the normal X chromosome. Our results suggest that difference of clinical expression in monozygotic twins may be correlated with difference in methylation pattern. Six out of 33 fra(X) negative females at risk were diagnosed as carriers. Our observations indicate that molecular heterogeneity is responsible for variable expression of the fra(X) syndrome in both males and females.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA Probes
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics
  • Female
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylation
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Twins, Monozygotic


  • DNA Probes