Unité de Recherche en Génétique Humaine et Moléculaire, Hospital St-François d'Assise Research Center, Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, G1L 3L5.
We previously reported a 1:259 prevalence of female carriers of FMR1 premutation-size alleles (greater than 54 triplet repeats) in the general population. We now have screened 10 572 independent males from the same population for similar alleles using high-throughput Southern blotting. We identified 13 male carriers of an allele with more than 54 repeats. This corresponds to a prevalence of 1:813 males (95% confidence interval 1:527 to 1:1781). Haplotype analysis of four markers flanking the triplet array revealed that the prevalence of the major fragile X mutation-associated haplotype was increased among FMR1 alleles of 40-54 repeats. Although sequencing of highly unstable premutation alleles from fragile X families revealed only pure CGG tracts, this was not the case for alleles of similar size that were identified in males from the general population. Forty-eight out of forty-nine alleles of 40 or more triplets had one or two AGG interruptions. This observation, combined with the observation of the enrichment of major fragile X syndrome haplotypes in all alleles of this size, is evidence that the loss of an AGG interruption in the triplet repeat array is not necessary for expansion of normal alleles of 29-30 triplets to intermediate size. The loss of AGG interruptions thus appears to be a late event that leads to greatly increased instability and may be related to the haplotype background of specific FMR1 alleles.