Unravelling the genetic basis of variable clinical expression in neurofibromatosis 1

Hum Mol Genet. 2009 Aug 1;18(15):2768-78. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddp212. Epub 2009 May 5.


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common autosomal dominant disorder which displays considerable inter- and intra-familial variability in phenotypic expression. To evaluate the genetic component of variable expressivity in NF1, we examined the phenotypic correlations between affected relatives in 750 NF1 patients from 275 multiplex families collected through the NF-France Network. Twelve NF1-related clinical features, including five quantitative traits (number of café-au-lait spots of small size and of large size, and number of cutaneous, subcutaneous and plexiform neurofibromas) and seven binary ones, were scored. All clinical features studied, with the exception of neoplasms, showed significant familial aggregation after adjusting for age and sex. For most of them, patterns of familial correlations indicated a strong genetic component with no apparent influence of the constitutional NF1 mutation. Heritability estimates of the five quantitative traits ranged from 0.26 to 0.62. Moreover, we investigated for the first time the role of the normal NF1 allele in the variable expression of NF1 through a family-based association study. Nine tag SNPs in NF1 were genotyped in 1132 individuals from 313 NF1 families. No significant deviations of transmission of any of the NF1 variants to affected offspring was found for any of the 12 clinical features examined, based on single marker or haplotype analysis. Taken together, our results provided evidence that genetic modifiers, unlinked to the NF1 locus, contribute to the variable expressivity of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • France
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / genetics*
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / metabolism
  • Neurofibromin 1 / genetics*
  • Neurofibromin 1 / metabolism
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Whites / genetics


  • Neurofibromin 1