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Journal of Applied Genetics 47(3), 2006, pp. 255-260

How to assess the pathogenicity of mutations in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and other diseases?

Andrzej Kochanski

Abstract: Knowledge whether a certain DNA variant is a pathogenic mutation or a harmless polymorphism is a critical issue in medical genetics, in which results of a molecular analysis may serve as a basis for diagnosis and genetic counseling. Due to its genetic heterogeneity expressed at the levels of loci, genes and mutations, Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease can serve as a model group of clinically homogenous diseases for studying the pathogenicity of mutations. Close to a 17p11.2-p12 duplication occurring in 70% of patients with the demyelinating form of CMT disease, numerous mutations have been identified in poorly characterized genes coding for proteins of an unknown function. Functional analyses, segregation analyses of large pedigrees, and inclusion of large control groups are required to assess the potential pathogenicity of CMT mutations. Hence, the pathogenicity of numerous CMT mutations remains unclear. Some variants detected in the CMT genes and originally described as pathogenic mutations have been shown to have a polymorphic character. In contrast, polymorphisms initially considered harmless were later reclassified as pathogenic mutations. However, the process of assessing the pathogenicity of mutations, as presented in this study for CMT disorders, is a more general issue concerning all disorders with a genetic background. Since the number of DNA variants is still growing, in the near future geneticists will increasingly have to cope with the problem of pathogenicity of identified genetic variants.

Key words: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorders, functional analysis, harmless polymorphism, pathogenic mutations, segregation analysis.

Correspondence: A. Kochanski, Neuromuscular Unit, Mossakowski Medical Research Center, Pawinskiego 5, 02-106 Warszawa, Poland; e-mail:

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