Distinguishing between balanced and unbalanced chromosome complements segregating from parental rearrangements may be difficult using only classical cytogenetic techniques if banding morphology is similar under both expectations. In these situations, supplementing cytogenetic analysis with molecular genetic techniques and flow cytometry may provide increased diagnostic accuracy. To illustrate this, we present a case in which similar band pattern morphology would be expected for both the balanced carrier (heterozygote) and the recombinant dup q chromosome complements segregating from a mother with a balanced inversion [46,XX,inv(5)(p13q33)]. The parents came to Northwestern for consultation after receiving conflicting interpretations of their first amniotic fluid cultures. An ultrasound examination was said to be normal. They inquired whether there were ways to increase their confidence that the complement was unbalanced. Their reluctance to terminate the pregnancy was due to a 6-year history of infertility. After extensive counseling, the couple elected repeat amniocentesis. Further cytogenetic analysis of repeat amniotic fluid cultures by G-banding and R-banding, molecular genetic analysis with highly polymorphic DNA probes, and quantitative flow cytometry were performed. Results agreed that an unbalanced fetal complement was present. Southern blot analysis with a 5p marker definitively demonstrated a lack of maternal 5p material in the fetus, and in situ hybridization showed a 5q marker at either end of the recombinant chromosome. Flow cytometry was consistent with this interpretation. Because of the advanced gestational age, the parents elected to terminate based on cytogenetic results of the second amniocentesis, rather than to wait another 1-2 weeks for results of other methods. Although not determinative of this pregnancy outcome, this correspondence provides reassurance that, in cases when banding analysis may be more difficult or inconclusive, other methods are accurate supplements to classical cytogenetics.
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