Background: Alport syndrome is a hereditary nephritis that may lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in young adult life and is often associated with sensorineural deafness and/or ocular abnormalities. The majority of families are X-linked due to mutations in the COL4A5 gene at Xq22. Autosomal forms of the disease are also recognized with recessive disease, having been shown to be due to mutations in the COL4A3 and COL4A4 genes on chromosome 2. Familial benign haematuria has also been mapped to this region in some families.
Subjects and methods: We describe a large family with autosomal dominant Alport syndrome in which males and females are equally severely affected and one member with a mild sensorineural deafness reached ESRD aged 35 years. Renal biopsy in four affected patients demonstrated characteristic thickened and split glomerular basement membranes on electron-microscopy.
Results: Genetic linkage analysis using markers on chromosome 2q demonstrated co-segregation of the disease with the markers D2S351 and D2S401 with a maximum lod score of 3.4 at zero recombination. Linkage to the COL4A4 gene was confirmed using an intragenic COL4A4 polymorphism. Mutation analysis has revealed a missense Leu36Pro mutation in exon 5 of the adjacent COL4A3 gene in the unaffected mother, which may lead to a more severe phenotype in affected family members carrying this mutation.
Conclusion: Mutations in the COL4A3 and COL4A4 genes can cause a spectrum of glomerular basement membrane disease ranging from autosomal recessive Alport syndrome to autosomal dominant Alport syndrome and familial benign haematuria.