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Keywords:

  • Usher syndrome;
  • harmonin;
  • USH1C;
  • Acadian population;
  • founder effect

Usher syndrome (USH) is characterized by the associated findings of hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa (RP), leading to progressive loss of vision. Three forms of USH can be distinguished clinically. In the most severe form, USH1, profound congenital deafness is associated with vestibular dysfunction and RP. To determine the frequency of USH1C mutations as a cause for USH1, 128 probands with Usher syndrome type 1 including seven from Acadian and 121 from non-Acadian populations were systematically screened for mutations in USH1C using a combined single-strand conformational polymorphisms (SSCP)/heteroduplex and sequencing method. All seven Acadian USH1 patients were found to be homozygous for both the 216G>A mutation and the 9-repeat VNTR which characterizes the Acadian allele, confirming previous evidence for a founder effect by haplotype analysis. However, USH1C mutations were identified in only two non-Acadian USH1 probands (1.65%) including one from Pakistan who was homozygous for a 238-239insC mutation and one from Canada was also homozygous for the Acadian allele. The low prevalence of USH1C mutations in the present study suggests that the high prevalence of the 238-239insC in Germany may reflect a founder effect. Comparison of the affected haplotypes in the Canadian patient with the Acadian USH1 patients yielded evidence for a founder effect. Our data suggest that USH1C is a relatively rare form of USH1 in non-Acadian populations and that in addition to the 216G>A Acadian mutation, the 238-239insC mutation appears to be common in some populations.