In 288 Dutch and Belgian Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy families, the parental origin of 41 new deletion or duplication mutations was determined. Twenty seven of the new mutations occurred in the maternal X chromosome and nine in the grandmaternal and five in the grandpaternal X chromosome. The grandparental data are compatible with equal mutation rates for DMD in male and female X chromosomes. New mutations were defined by their presence in one or more progeny and absence in the lymphocytes of the mother or the grandparents. In one family a fraction of the maternal lymphocytes was found to carry the mutation, suggesting somatic mosaicism. In six cases out of 41, the mutation was transmitted more than once by a parent in whom the mutation was absent in lymphocytes, suggesting gonadal mosaicism as the explanation for the multiple transmission. Using our data for the recurrence of the mutations among the total of at risk haplotypes transmitted, we arrive at a recurrence risk of 14% for the at risk haplotype. The observation of this high risk of germinal mosaicism is crucially important for all physicians counselling females in DMD families. Recently, germinal mosaicism has been observed also in a number of other X linked and autosomal disorders. The implications and appropriate diagnostic precautions are discussed.
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