Fragile X syndrome: a review of clinical and molecular diagnoses

Ital J Pediatr. 2017 Apr 19;43(1):39. doi: 10.1186/s13052-017-0355-y.


Background: Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the second cause of intellectual disability after Down syndrome and the most prevalent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting 1:5000-7000 men and 1:4000-6000 women. It is caused by an alteration of the FMR1 gene, which maps at the Xq27.3 band: more than 99% of individuals have a CGG expansion (>200 triplets) in the 5' UTR of the gene, and FMR1 mutations and duplication/deletion are responsible for the remaining (<1%) molecular diagnoses of FXS. The aim of this review was to gather the current clinical and molecular knowledge about FXS to provide clinicians with a tool to guide the initial assessment and follow-up of FXS and to offer to laboratory workers and researchers an update about the current diagnostic procedures.

Discussion: FXS is a well-known condition; however, most of the studies thus far have focused on neuropsychiatric features. Unfortunately, some of the available studies have limitations, such as the paucity of patients enrolled or bias due to the collection of the data in a single-country population, which may be not representative of the average global FXS population. In recent years, insight into the adult presentation of the disease has progressively increased. Pharmacological treatment of FXS is essentially symptom based, but the growing understanding of the molecular and biological mechanisms of the disease are paving the way to targeted therapy, which may reverse the effects of FMRP deficiency and be a real cure for the disease itself, not just its symptoms.

Conclusions: The clinical spectrum of FXS is wide, presenting not only as an isolated intellectual disability but as a multi-systemic condition, involving predominantly the central nervous system but potentially affecting any apparatus. Given the relative high frequency of the condition and its complex clinical management, FXS appears to have an important economic and social burden.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; FMR1; Fragile X syndrome; Intellectual disability; Triplet expansion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics*
  • Fragile X Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Rare Diseases


  • FMR1 protein, human
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein