Attenuation of disease phenotype through alternative translation initiation in low-penetrance retinoblastoma

Hum Mutat. 2007 Feb;28(2):159-67. doi: 10.1002/humu.20394.


Hereditary predisposition to retinoblastoma (RB) is caused by germline mutations in the retinoblastoma 1 (RB1) gene and transmits as an autosomal dominant trait. In the majority of cases disease develops in greater than 90% of carriers. However, reduced penetrance with a large portion of disease-free carrier is seen in some families. Unambiguous identification of the predisposing mutation in these families is important for accurate risk prediction in relatives and their genetic counseling but also provides conceptual information regarding the relationship between the RB1 genotype and the disease phenotype. In this study we report a novel mutation detected in 10 individuals of an extended family, only three of whom are affected by RB disease. The mutation comprises a 23-basepair (bp) duplication in the first exon of RB1 (c.43_65dup) producing a frameshift in exon 1 and premature chain termination in exon 2. Mutations resulting in premature chain termination classically are associated with high penetrance disease, as message translation may not generate functional product and nonsense mediated RNA decay (NMD) frequently eliminates the mutant transcript. However, appreciable NMD does not follow from the mutation described here and transcript expression in tissue culture cells and translation in vitro reveals that alternative in-frame translation start sites involving Met113 and possibly Met233 are used to generate truncated RB1 products (pRB94 and pRB80), known and suspected to exhibit tumor suppressor activity. These results strongly suggest that modulation of disease penetrance in this family is achieved by internal translation initiation. Our observations provide the first example for rescue of a chain-terminating mutation in RB1 through alternative translation initiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Child
  • Codon, Nonsense
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Exons
  • Female
  • Frameshift Mutation*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Penetrance
  • Peptide Chain Initiation, Translational
  • Phenotype*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma / diagnosis
  • Retinoblastoma / genetics*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / analysis
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / chemistry
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics*


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins