A high frequency of distinct ATM gene mutations in ataxia-telangiectasia

Am J Hum Genet. 1996 Oct;59(4):839-46.


The clinical features of the autosomal recessive disorder ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) include a progressive cerebellar ataxia, hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation, and an increased susceptibility to malignancies. Epidemiological studies have suggested that AT heterozygotes may also be at increased risk for malignancy, possibly as a consequence of radiation exposure. A gene mutated in AT patients (ATM) has recently been isolated, making mutation screening in both patients and the general population possible. Because of the relatively large size of the ATM gene, the design of screening programs will depend on the types and distribution of mutations in the general population. In this report, we describe 30 mutations identified in a panel of unrelated AT patients and controls. Twenty-five of the 30 were distinct, and most patients were compound heterozygotes. The most frequently detected mutation was found in three different families and had previously been reported in five others. This corresponds to a frequency of 8% of all reported ATM mutations. Twenty-two of the alterations observed would be predicted to lead to protein truncation at sites scattered throughout the molecule. Two fibroblast cell lines, which displayed normal responses to ionizing radiation, also proved to be heterozygous for truncation mutations of ATM. These observations suggest that the carrier frequency of ATM mutations may be sufficiently high to make population screening practical. However, such screening may need to be done prospectively, that is, by searching for new mutations rather than by screening for just those already identified in AT families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia Telangiectasia / genetics*
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cell Line
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fibroblasts
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Genetic Carrier Screening
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • ATM protein, human
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases