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Epigenotype-phenotype correlations in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.

J R Engel, A Smallwood, A Harper, M J Higgins, M Oshimura, W Reik, P N Schofield, E R Maher

J. Med. Genet., 2000 Dec , 37, 921-6

Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) is a model imprinting disorder resulting from mutations or epigenetic events involving imprinted genes at chromosome 11p15.5. Thus, germline mutations in CDKN1C, uniparental disomy (UPD), and loss of imprinting of IGF2 and other imprinted genes have been implicated. Many familial BWS cases have germline CDKN1C mutations. However, most BWS cases are sporadic and UPD or putative imprinting errors predominate in this group. We have identified previously a subgroup of sporadic cases with loss of imprinting (LOI) of IGF2 and epigenetic silencing of H19 proposed to be caused by a defect in a distal 11p15.5 imprinting control element (designated BWSIC1). However, many sporadic BWS patients show biallelic IGF2 expression in the presence of normal H19 methylation and expression patterns. This and other evidence suggested the existence of a further imprinting control element (BWSIC2) at 11p15. 5. Recently, we showed that a subgroup of BWS patients have loss of methylation (LOM) at a differentially methylated region (KvDMR1) within the KCNQ1 gene centromeric to the IGF2 and H19 genes. We have now analysed a large series of sporadic cases to define the frequency and phenotypic correlates of epigenetic abnormalities in BWS. LOM at KvDMR1 was detected by Southern analysis or a novel PCR based method in 35 of 69 (51%) sporadic BWS without UPD. LOM at KvDMR1 was often, but not invariably associated with LOI of IGF2. KvDMR1 LOM was not detected in BWS patients with putative BWSIC1 defects and cases with KvDMR1 LOM (that is, putative BWSIC2 defects) invariably had a normal H19 methylation pattern. The incidence of exomphalos in putative BWSIC2 defect patients was not significantly different from that in patients with germline CDKN1C mutations (20/29 and 13/15 respectively), but was significantly greater than that in patients with putative BWSIC1 defects (0/5, p=0.007) and UPD (0/22, p<0.0001). These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that LOM of KvDMR1 (BWSIC2 defect) results in epigenetic silencing of CDKN1C and variable LOI of IGF2. BWS patients with embryonal tumours have UPD or a BWSIC1 defect but not LOM of KvDMR1. This study has further shown how (1) variations in phenotypic expression of BWS may be linked to specific molecular subgroups and (2) molecular analysis of BWS can provide insights into mechanisms of imprinting regulation.