Cockayne's syndrome (CS) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder with dwarfism, mental retardation, and otherwise clinically heterogeneous features. In cultured CS fibroblasts, the failure of RNA synthesis to recover to normal rates after UV-C irradiation provides a useful and relatively simple diagnostic test. We have measured post-UV-C RNA synthesis in 52 patients for whom a clinical diagnosis of CS was considered a possibility. Twenty-nine patients showed the defect characteristic of CS cells, and 23 had a normal response. We have attempted to correlate the cellular diagnosis with the different clinical features of the disorder. Clinical details of the patients were obtained from referring clinicians in the form of a questionnaire. Our results show that, apart from the cardinal features of dwarfism and mental retardation, sun sensitivity correlated best with a positive cellular diagnosis. Pigmentary retinopathy, gait defects, and dental caries were also good positive indicators, although several patients with a positive cellular diagnosis did not have these features.
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