Purpose: To retrospectively analyze the clinical characteristics of patients who were screened for mutations with the ATP-binding cassette transporter gene ABCA4 (ABCA4) microarray in a routine clinical DNA diagnostics setting.
Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of the medical charts of 65 patients who underwent an ABCA4 microarray screening between the years 2002 and 2006. An additional denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was performed in these patients if less than two mutations were found with the microarray. We included all patients who were suspected of autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (STGD1), autosomal recessive cone-rod dystrophy (arCRD), or autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa at the time of microarray request. After a retrospective analysis of the clinical characteristics, the patients who were suspected of STGD1 were categorized as having either a typical or atypical form of STGD1, according to the age at onset, fundus appearance, fluorescein angiography, and electroretinography. The occurrence of typical clinical features for STGD1 was compared between patients with different numbers of discovered mutations.
Results: Of the 44 patients who were suspected of STGD1, 26 patients (59%) had sufficient data available for a classification in either typical (six patients; 23%) or atypical (20 patients; 77%) STGD1. In the suspected STGD1 group, 59% of all expected pathogenic alleles were found with the ABCA4 microarray. DGGE led to the finding of 12 more mutations, resulting in an overall detection rate of 73%. Thirty-one percent of patients with two or three discovered ABCA4 mutations met all typical STGD1 criteria. An age at onset younger than 25 years and a dark choroid on fluorescein angiography were the most predictive clinical features to find ABCA4 mutations in patients suspected of STGD1. In 18 patients suspected of arCRD, microarray screening detected 22% of the possible pathogenic alleles.
Conclusions: In addition to confirmation of the diagnosis in typical STGD1, ABCA4 microarray screening is usually requested in daily clinical practice to strengthen the diagnosis when the disease is atypical. This study supports the view that the efficiency and accuracy of ABCA4 microarray screening are directly dependent upon the clinical features of the patients who are screened.