Thirteen marker loci localised on the short arm of the X chromosome are available for use in genetic studies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This large number of probes detecting about 20 RFLPs encouraged us to set up a standard procedure using a sequence of selected probes and restriction enzymes for the diagnosis of DMD families. The application of DNA probe analysis for carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis, involving 61 pedigrees of both familial and isolated cases, has yielded the following results. Carrier detection using flanking markers was possible in more than 75% of the cases (104 out of 136 females) with a reliability of better than 98%. Prenatal diagnosis was possible in 95% of the cases (65 out of 68 proven carriers or women at risk). Twenty-three prenatal diagnoses were performed on male fetuses; 13 appeared to have a low risk for DMD (less than 1%) and thus the pregnancies continued. Seven have since come to term and the male infants have normal CK levels. The genetic distances of the loci relative to the DMD locus and their order on the short arm of the X chromosome were deduced from our total DMD family material and are not significantly different from those reported earlier. For 754 (DXS84) we found a genetic distance of 5 cM with a lod score of +12.4 and 95% confidence limits between 2 and 12 cM. Similar data were obtained for pERT87 (DXS164), suggesting that in our family material both loci are tightly linked. Multiply informative recombination showed that both 754 and pERT87 map proximal to the DMD mutations in the cases studied. The high frequency of DMD mutations and its relation to the observed instability in this part of the genome will be discussed. Unequal crossing over is proposed as one of the mechanisms contributing to the high mutation frequency.
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