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Abstract

A candidate gene (HFE) has been described for hereditary hemochromatosis on chromosome 6. The study of well-defined atypical hemochromatosis families using genetic markers may increase our understanding of the sensitivity and the specificity of genotyping in hemochromatosis. One hundred and thirteen Canadian families with genetic hemochromatosis were surveyed to find atypical families as possible examples of people with genetic recombinations. All families underwent clinical investigations including iron studies and HLA typing. Each individual was typed at three polymorphic microsatellite loci (D6S105, D6S1260, and D6S299) on chromosome 6. Sixteen subjects were studied for the two missense mutations described for the candidate gene for hemochromatosis (C282Y, H63D). There were eight HLA-identical siblings found in four different families (five men, three women; age range 30-72) with normal transferrin saturation and ferritin levels. There were two patients identified who were homozygous for the C282Y mutation without biochemical evidence of iron overload, and two patients with no evidence of the mutation with significant iron overload. Our conclusions are as follows: 1) finding HLA-identical siblings without iron overload does not confirm a genetic recombination, 2) difficulties in phenotypic definition of disease and the description of new iron overload syndromes that may differ from classical genetic HC cause complicated genetic studies, and 3) finding iron-loaded patients without a C282Y mutation and patients that are homozygous for the C282Y mutation without evidence of iron overload may limit the use of genotyping in population screening for hemochromatosis.