Fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and conventional chromosome analysis were performed on a series of 52 patients with classical Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS), suspected WBS, or supravalvular aortic stenosis (SVAS). In the classical WBS group, 22/23 (96%) had a submicroscopic deletion of the elastin locus on chromosome 7, but the remaining patient had a unique interstitial deletion of chromosome 11 (del(11)(q13.5q14.2)). In the suspected WBS group 2/22 (9%) patients had elastin deletions but a third patient had a complex karyotype including a ring chromosome 22 with a deletion of the long arm (r(22)(p11-->q13)). In the SVAS group, 1/7 (14%) had an elastin gene deletion, despite having normal development and minimal signs of WBS. Overall, some patients with submicroscopic elastin deletions have fewer features of Williams-Beuren syndrome than those with other cytogenetic abnormalities. These results, therefore, emphasise the importance of a combined conventional and molecular cytogenetic approach to diagnosis and suggest that the degree to which submicroscopic deletions of chromosome 7 extend beyond the elastin locus may explain some of the phenotypic variability found in Williams-Beuren syndrome.
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