Mutations in GJB2, encoding gap junction beta 2 protein (connexin 26), are responsible for the commonest form of non-syndromic recessive deafness in many populations. It has been reported recently that the most common 35delG mutation in GJB2 is exceptionally low in Japanese and Korean populations, but another deletion, 235delC, is relatively frequent. Since the Chinese constitute approximately one fifth of the global population, the frequency of GJB2 mutations in the population has important implications for understanding worldwide causes of genetic deafness. To determine whether GJB2 mutations are an important cause of deafness in Chinese, we conducted mutation screening for GJB2 in 118 deaf Chinese probands, including 60 from simplex and 58 from multiplex families with non-syndromic deafness, and 150 normal hearing Chinese controls. Four mutations, including 235delC, 299-300delAT, V37I, and 35delG, were found in the patients. Thirty-nine percent of the probands had a GJB2 mutation. Of the 118 probands, 19 carried two definitely pathogenic mutations: three among the 58 multiplex cases (5.2%) and 16 among the 60 simplex cases (26.7%). Twenty-seven probands (22.9%) were found to carry only single GJB2 mutations. None of them had mutations in exon 1 of GJB2 and or the 342-kb deletion of GJB6. The 235delC mutation was the most prevalent mutation (20.3% of alleles), accounting for 81% of the pathologic alleles in multiplex cases and 67% in simplex cases. Analysis of the affected haploytypes in the patients with the homozygous 235delC mutation yielded evidence for a single origin of the mutation. The carrier frequency of the 235delC mutation in control subjects with normal hearing was 1.3%. The 35delG mutation was only noted as a heterozygous change in two simplex cases (1.2% of alleles). These results indicated that mutations in GJB2 are a major cause of inherited and sporadic congenital deafness in the Chinese population. The 235delC mutation, rather than 35delG, is the most common mutation found in the Chinese deaf population. Our data support the view that specific combination of GJB2 mutation exist in different populations.
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