Reliability of diagnostic assessment of normal and premutation status in the fragile X syndrome using DNA testing

G. S. Fisch, D. L. Nelson, K. Snow, S. N. Thibodeau, M. Chalifoux, J. J.A. Holden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Until recently, fragile X [fra(X)] syndrome was diagnosed by cytogenetic techniques and/or linkage analysis. Investigation of the mutation at the molecular level has shown that amplification of a polymorphic trinucleotide repeat (CGG) is diagnostic of this syndrome. Fu et al. [1991] observed that between 6-54 copies of the repeat were associated with alleles found in the general population, whereas 50-200 copies were associated with the premutation. In general, differences in copy number between the normal and premutated states are sufficiently large so that the probability of misclassification is, for all practical purposes, zero. However, there is a grey area in which members from both populations overlap. The purpose of our study was to determine the probability of misclassifying an individual from either the general or premutation population. DNA obtained from the general population and transmitting fra(X) females were analyzed from 3 centers in North America: Houston, Texas; Rochester, Minnesota; and Kingston, Ontario. The distribution of normal alleles from Houston was not significantly different from those obtained from Rochester. Therefore, these 2 samples were combined and the pooled distribution of normal alleles was compared with the pooled distribution of premutations. Results indicated that if 50 repeats were used as the cutoff criterion, sensitivity is 100%, specificity is 99.6%, and the probability that an individual has the fra(X) premutation given that the number of repeats is greater than 50 is 95%. Other cutoff criteria (45, 55, 60, 65) employed produced like findings, although 55 repeats appears to be a marginally superior criterion to 50. An independent sample from Kingston was used to verify the original assessments. Results indicated no significant differences when the pooled Houston/Rochester distribution was compared with the distribution of repeats found in the general population from Kingston. Our findings indicate that family studies should be done to establish stability/instability of alleles when more than 55 repeats are found in the proband.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-345
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of medical genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 11 1994


  • Bayesian analysis
  • signal detection
  • trinucleotide repeats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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