Background: Hearing impairment affects one infant in 1000 and 4% of people aged younger than 45 years. Congenital deafness is inherited or apparently sporadic. We have shown previously that DFNB1 on chromosome 13 is a major locus for recessive deafness in about 80% of Mediterranean families and that the connexin-26 gene gap junction protein beta2 (GJB2) is mutated in DFNB1 families. We investigated mutations in the GJB2 gene in familial and sporadic cases of deafness.
Methods: We obtained DNA samples from 82 families from Italy and Spain with recessive non-syndromic deafness and from 54 unrelated participants with apparently sporadic congenital deafness. We analysed the coding region of the GJB2 gene for mutations. We also tested 280 unrelated people from the general populations of Italy and Spain for the frameshift mutation 35delG.
Findings: 49% of participants with recessive deafness and 37% of sporadic cases had mutations in the GJB2 gene. The 35delG mutation accounted for 85% of GJB2 mutations, six other mutations accounted for 6% of alleles, and no changes in the coding region of GJB2 were detected in 9% of DFNB1 alleles. The carrier frequency of mutation 35delG among people from the general population was one in 31 (95% CI one in 19 to one in 87).
Interpretation: Mutations in the GJB2 gene are a major cause of inherited and apparently sporadic congenital deafness. Mutation 35delG is the most common mutation for sensorineural deafness. Identification of 35delG and other mutations in the GJB2 gene should facilitate diagnosis and counselling for the most common genetic form of deafness.