Variable degree of mosaicism for tetrasomy 18p in phenotypically discordant monozygotic twins-Diagnostic implications

Mol Genet Genomic Med. 2021 Jan;9(1):e1526. doi: 10.1002/mgg3.1526. Epub 2020 Dec 14.


Background: Phenotypically discordant monozygotic twins (PDMZTs) offer a unique opportunity to study post-zygotic genetic variation and provide insights into the linkage between genotype and phenotype. We report a comprehensive analysis of a pair of PDMZTs.

Methods: Dysmorphic features and delayed neuro-motor development were observed in the proband, whereas her twin sister was phenotypically normal. Four tissues (blood, skin, hair follicles, and buccal mucosa) from both twins were studied using four complementary methods, including whole-exome sequencing, karyotyping, array CGH, and SNP array.

Results: In the proband, tetrasomy 18p affecting all studied tissues except for blood was identified. Karyotyping of fibroblasts revealed isochromosome 18p [i(18p)] in all metaphases. The corresponding analysis of the phenotypically normal sister surprisingly revealed low-level mosaicism (5.4%) for i(18p) in fibroblasts.

Conclusion: We emphasize that when mosaicism is suspected, multiple tissues should be studied and we highlight the usefulness of non-invasive sampling of hair follicles and buccal mucosa as a convenient source of non-mesoderm-derived DNA, which complements the analysis of mesoderm using blood. Moreover, low-level mosaic tetrasomy 18p is well tolerated and such low-level mosaicism, readily detected by karyotyping, can be missed by other methods. Finally, mosaicism for low-level tetrasomy 18p might be more common in the general population than it is currently recognized, due to detection limitations.

Keywords: copy number variants; phenotypically-discordant monozygotic twins; post-zygotic mutations; somatic chromosomal mosaicism; tetrasomy 18p; whole-exome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aneuploidy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 18 / genetics
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Karyotype
  • Mosaicism*
  • Phenotype*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*

Supplementary concepts

  • Chromosome 18, tetrasomy 18p