We report on two mentally retarded adults with an unbalanced karyotype resulting from a familial balanced translocation between chromosomes 8 and 21, t(8;21)(p21.1;q22.3). This translocation has not been reported before. Both patients had partial trisomy 8p and partial monosomy 21q. Fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) was used to determine the chromosomal breakpoints more precisely. The first patient showed mild mental retardation and facial dysmorphism, slightly resembling the earlier described trisomy 8p phenotype. He did not resemble his affected niece, who was more severely retarded, had serious epilepsy, but lacked the facial dysmorphism. Comparing the data of both patients with published reports of trisomy 8p, marked differences were found between patients with an inversion duplication (inv dup) 8p, patients with partial trisomy 8p caused by an unbalanced translocation, and our patients. Inv dup(8p) causes a recognisable phenotype, whereas the phenotype of trisomy 8p resulting from a translocation is much more variable, probably because of the accompanying monosomies. However, even the same abnormal karyotype can cause different phenotypes, as our patients show. Counselling carriers of the balanced translocation in this family, a 20-25% recurrence risk for unbalanced offspring and a 25% risk for miscarriages seem appropriate.
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