Fatal hyperammonemia resulting from a C-to-T mutation at a MspI site of the ornithine transcarbamylase gene
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Ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency is the most common inborn error of the urea cycle in humans and is responsible for lethal neonatal hyperammonemia in males. Partial OTC deficiency also occurs in females and can be responsible for life-threatening hyperammonemic comas in heterozygotes. The cosegregation of the trait with a 5.8-kb abnormal MspI fragment in an affected family led us to hypothesize that this unexpected migration pattern was related to the mutation event in this particular family. Using polymerase chain reaction amplification of the specific mRNA derived from a post-mortem biopsy of the liver, we found that the MspI site located in the seventh exon of the gene was abolished and we finally identified a C-to-T transition at codon 225 of the cDNA, changing a proline to a leucine in the protein. Subsequent digestion of amplified exon 7 using the restriction enzyme MspI allowed direct screening for the mutant genotype during the next pregnancy. The present study supports the view that direct detection of the mutant genotype using either Southern blotting or digestion of amplified exons of the gene can contribute to genetic counselling in non-informative families. Finally, since MspI digestions are routinely performed for restriction fragment length polymorphism-based family studies in OTC deficiency, we suggest that the possible presence of the 5.8-kb abnormal fragment should be investigated on Southern blots of affected individuals.
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