PURPOSE: Characterize the phenotype of autosomal dominant Stargardt- like macular dystrophy in two families linked to chromosome 6q14 and determine whether they share a common ancestry. METHODS: Two families spanning 10 generations were identified and studied independently. Participating members were examined and genetic linkage and genotyping performed. RESULTS: Presenting symptoms included decreased vision, hemeralopia, and mild photophobia. The subjective onset of visual loss ranged from age 3 to 50 with a mean of 14 years. A Snellen acuity of 20/200 occurred at a mean age of 22 years. Over decades, the macular lesion enlarged and visual acuity decreased to 20/300 to 20/800. The typical phenotype was well- circumscribed, homogenous atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium and choriocapillaris in the macula, with surrounding yellow flecks and temporal optic nerve pallor. The phenotypic spectrum included a pattern dystrophy- like appearance, diffuse geographic atrophy, and extensive fundus flecks. Genotyping revealed that the two families were linked to chromosome 6q14 and shared a common haplotype spanning 21 cM between D6S430 and D6S300. The two families were subsequently shown by genealogic investigation to represent different branches of a common kindred. CONCLUSIONS: Families with autosomal dominant Stargardt-like macular dystrophy linked to chromosome 6q14 share a common phenotype and in some cases can be distinguished from similar dystrophies by inheritance pattern and clinical features. The finding that these two families shared a common ancestor suggests the existence of a founder effect. Characterization of the gene for autosomal dominant Stargardt-like macular dystrophy may enable better understanding of this condition and elucidation of its potential role in other forms of macular degeneration.
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