The fragile X site in somatic cell hybrids: an approach for molecular cloning of fragile sites

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Science  24 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4813, pp. 420-423
DOI: 10.1126/science.3603029


Fragile X syndrome is a common form of mental retardation associated with a fragile site on the human X chromosome. Although fragility at this site is usually evident as a nonstaining chromatid gap, it remains unclear whether or not actual chromosomal breakage occurs. By means of somatic cell hybrids containing either a normal human X or a fragile X chromosome and utilizing two genes that flank the fragile site as markers of chromosome integrity, segregation of these markers was shown to be more frequent if they encompass the fragile site under appropriate culture conditions. Hybrid cells that reveal marker segregation were found to contain rearranged X chromosomes involving the region at or near the fragile site, thus demonstrating true chromosomal breakage within this area. Two independent translocation chromosomes were identified involving a rodent chromosome joined to the human X at the location of the fragile site. DNA analysis of closely linked, flanking loci was consistent with the position of the breakpoint being at or very near the fragile X site. Fragility at the translocation junctions was observed in both hybrids, but at significantly lower frequencies than that seen in the intact X of the parental hybrid. This observation suggests that the human portion of the junctional DNA may contain part of a repeated fragility sequence. Since the translocation junctions join heterologous DNA, the molecular cloning of the fragile X sequence should now be possible.