Background: Short stature in children who are not deficient in growth hormone (GH) is probably caused by a variety of defects. Some children with idiopathic short stature have low serum concentrations of GH-binding protein, which is derived from the GH receptor. The possibility that low serum concentrations of GH-binding protein might indicate partial insensitivity to GH led us to investigate possible defects in the gene for the GH receptor in children with idiopathic short stature and low serum concentrations of GH-binding protein.
Methods: We studied 14 children with idiopathic short stature who were selected on the basis of normal GH secretion and low serum concentrations of GH-binding protein. Analysis of single-strand conformation polymorphisms and DNA sequencing were both used to identify mutations in the GH-receptor gene.
Results: Mutations in the region of the GH-receptor gene that codes for the extracellular domain of the receptor were found in 4 of the 14 children, but in none of 24 normal subjects. One of the four children with mutations was a compound heterozygote, with one mutation that reduced the affinity of the receptor for GH and a second mutation that may affect a function other than ligand binding. The remaining three children had single mutations in one allele of the gene. One mutation introduced a premature termination codon, and two caused substitutions of single amino acids in a structurally conserved domain of the receptor.
Conclusions: Some children with idiopathic short stature may have partial insensitivity to GH due to mutations in the GH-receptor gene.