The polymorphic locus D4S10 that is genetically linked to the locus for Huntington's disease (HD) has made possible a presymptomatic test for those at risk. Because the symptoms of this progressively debilitating and fatal illness are not usually manifest until adulthood, the outcome of the test will influence major decisions about career, marriage, and procreation. Several differential diagnoses must be considered before using the test if HD is not confirmed in at least one family member. Review of a large number of pedigrees has shown that 40% of persons at risk do not have appropriate family structure for a linkage test. Furthermore, uncooperative or inaccessible relatives may make this test infeasible for many others who wish to be tested. Linkage phase, which must be known in the affected parent for an informative test, can be determined using one or more of 12 probe-enzyme combinations for D4S10. Although the polymorphism information content (PIC) value for any one RFLP is less than 40%, the PIC value for the haplotype of the two G8 HindIII, pK083 EcoRI, and R7 BglII RFLPs is greater than 88%. We have developed a scheme to incorporate linkage data and age at onset information adjusted for censored observations, sex of affected parent, and familial correlation for age at onset, using the computer program MLINK for calculation of risk of having HD. Simulated experiments showed that proper age at onset adjustment is crucial to the calculation of the probability of risk. A formal presymptomatic testing protocol, including pre- and post-test counselling, psychological testing, and paternity testing is recommended. Many of these considerations are illustrated in several actual test cases.
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