Real-time PCR for single-cell genotyping in sickle cell and thalassemia syndromes as a rapid, accurate, reliable, and widely applicable protocol for preimplantation genetic diagnosis


  • Communicated by Stylianos Antonarakis


Sickle-cell and β-thalassemia syndromes are priority genetic diseases for prevention programs involving population screening with the option of prenatal diagnosis for carrier couples. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) represents a specialized alternative to prenatal diagnosis and is most appropriately used for couples with an unsuccessful reproductive history and/or undergoing assisted reproduction. However, clinical application of PGD has been hindered by difficulties in reliably transferring molecular diagnostic protocols to the single-cell level. We standardized and validated a protocol involving first-round multiplex PCR, amplifying the region of the β-globin gene containing most of the common disease mutations world-wide and two unlinked microsatellite markers (GABRB3 and D13S314), followed by: 1) analysis of β-globin genotypes with real-time PCR and 2) microsatellite sizing to exclude chance contamination. The protocol was standardized on 100 single lymphocytes from a β-thalassemia heterozygote, including 15 artificially contaminated samples, the latter demonstrated through microsatellite analysis. PCR failure and allele drop-out (ADO) were observed in one (uncontaminated) sample each (1.2%). A pilot study in six clinical PGD cycles with five different β-globin genotype interactions achieved results (in 5–6 hr) in 46 out of 50 single blastomeres (92%), all concordant with results from an established PGD method applied simultaneously; microsatellite analysis detected only parental alleles, excluding contamination. β-globin genotypes were also confirmed in two blastomeres through prenatal diagnosis (twin pregnancy), and in 11 out of 12 spare embryos, revealing one incident of ADO. Overall, the protocol proved to be sensitive, accurate, reliable, rapid, and applicable for many genotype interactions, with internal monitoring of contamination, thus fulfilling all requirements for clinical PGD application. Hum Mutat 23:513–521, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.