About one third of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients have no gross DNA rearrangements in the dystrophin gene detectable by Southern blot analysis or multiplex exon amplification. Presumably, in these cases, the deficiency is caused by minor structural lesions of the dystrophin gene. However, to date, only a single human DMD case has been described where a point mutation, producing a stop codon, accounts for the DMD phenotype. To screen for microheterogeneities in the dystrophin gene, we applied analysis by chemical mismatch cleavage to thirteen exons amplified in multiplex sets by the polymerase chain reaction. This analysis covers approximately 20% of the dystrophin-coding sequence. Sixty DMD patients without detectable deletions or duplications were investigated, leading to the identification of two point mutations and four polymorphisms with a frequency higher than 5%. Both point mutations are frameshift mutations in exons 12 and 48, respectively, and are closely followed by stop codons, thus explaining the functional deficiency of the dystrophin gene products in both patients.
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