Origins of the fragile X syndrome mutation.
The fragile X syndrome is a common cause of mental impairment. In view of the low reproductive fitness of affected males, the high incidence of the syndrome has been suggested to be the result of a high rate of new mutations occurring exclusively in the male germline. Extensive family studies, however, have failed to identify any cases of a new mutation. Alternatively, it has been suggested that a selective advantage of unaffected heterozygotes may, in part, explain the high incidence of the syndrome. Molecular investigations have shown that the syndrome is caused by the amplification of a CGG trinucleotide repeat in the FMR-1 gene which leads to the loss of gene expression. Further to this, genetic studies have suggested that there is evidence of linkage disequilibrium between the fragile X disease locus and flanking polymorphic markers. More recently, this analysis has been extended and has led to the observation that a large number of fragile X chromosomes appear to be lineage descendants of founder mutation events. Here, we present a study of the FRAXAC1 polymorphic marker in our patient cohort. We find that its allele distribution is strikingly different on fragile X chromosomes, confirming the earlier observations and giving further support to the suggestions of a fragile X founder effect.