BACKGROUND: Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder of lipid metabolism caused by mutations in the LDL receptor gene. FH is characterized clinically by elevated LDL cholesterol level and premature coronary disease. Diagnosing FH on clinical grounds may be difficult, and previous genetic methods are too cumbersome for routine use except in the few populations with FH-founder mutations. A simple mutation screening technique based on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) has been highly useful in detecting mutations in other genes, and in the present study we evaluated the diagnostic potential of this method for the diagnosis of FH. METHODS AND RESULTS: Conditions for screening exon 3 of the LDL receptor gene using the DGGE technique were established and 14 Danish FH families were examined. An index patient from 1 family had an abnormal DGGE pattern; consequently, an examination of exon 3 of the LDL receptor gene in 21 members of this patient's family was done. The DGGE pattern was seen only in patients with a definite clinical diagnosis of FH. Subsequent sequencing of exon 3 of the LDL receptor gene in these individuals revealed the presence of the French-Canadian type 4 Trp66-Gly mutation. However, in 4 of 11 cases in which a definite clinical diagnosis of FH had been made, the inheritance of the French-Canadian type 4 mutation could be rejected on the basis of genetic analysis. CONCLUSIONS: Introduction of a simple genetic analysis based on DGGE may improve the precision of diagnosis in FH families.
Keywords: Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Blotting, Southern; Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel; Exons; Female; Humans; Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II; Male; Middle Aged; Molecular Sequence Data; Mutation; Pedigree; Polymerase Chain Reaction; Receptors, LDL