Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) has traditionally been considered an autosomal-recessive disease; however, it has been observed that a substantial number of patients with clinical FMF possess only 1 demonstrable MEFV mutation. The purpose of this study was to perform an extensive search for a second MEFV mutation in 46 patients diagnosed clinically as having FMF and carrying only 1 high-penetrance FMF mutation.
MEFV and other candidate genes were sequenced by standard capillary electrophoresis. In 10 patients, the entire 15-kb MEFV genomic region was resequenced using hybridization-based chip technology. MEFV gene expression levels were determined by quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. Pyrin protein levels were examined by Western blotting.
A second MEFV mutation was not identified in any of the patients who were screened. Haplotype analysis did not identify a common haplotype that might be associated with the transmission of a second FMF allele. Western blots did not demonstrate a significant difference in pyrin levels between patients with a single mutation and those with a double mutation; however, FMF patients of both types showed higher protein expression as compared with controls and with non-FMF patients with active inflammation. Screening of genes encoding pyrin-interacting proteins identified rare mutations in a small number of patients, suggesting the possibility of digenic inheritance.
Our data underscore the existence of a significant subset of FMF patients who are carriers of only 1 MEFV mutation and demonstrate that complete MEFV sequencing is not likely to yield a second mutation. Screening for the set of the most common mutations and detection of a single mutation appears to be sufficient in the presence of clinical symptoms for the diagnosis of FMF and the initiation of a trial of colchicine.