In this study, we have defined by dot-blot analysis with allelic specific oligonucleotide probes or direct sequencing on amplified DNA the beta-thalassemia mutations in a large group of patients (23) of Italian descent with thalassemia intermedia. These patients had one parent with either the silent beta-thalassemia carrier phenotype or borderline-normal hemoglobin A2 (HbA2) levels (2.5% to 3.5%). Nearly all were genetic compounds for a severe beta-thalassemia mutation and a beta-thalassemia mutation associated with high residual output of beta- globin chains (beta + intervening sequence [IVS]-I-nt6, beta -87, beta - 101), indicating that inheritance of a mild beta-thalassemia allele, even in a single dose, is the most common molecular mechanism producing thalassemia intermedia in the Italian population. In three cases, in whom we failed to define by dot-blot analysis the mutations, we sequenced the beta + globin gene and found three novel beta-thalassemia mutations, which are certainly very rare because they have been hitherto detected solely in a single patient. These mutations consist of: (1) a T-A substitution at position 2 of IVS-I, in a patient compound heterozygote for this mutation and the -87 promoter mutation; (2) a G-C substitution at position 844 of IVS-II, in a patient heterozygous for this mutation who showed normal sequences at the in trans beta-globin gene (The reason for the presence of clinical manifestations in a beta-thalassemia heterozygote has not been defined.); and (3) a deletion of one nucleotide (-T) at codon 126, resulting in a frameshift and readthrough of the 5′ untranslated region and most likely producing an elongated Hb molecule of 156 amino acid residues, in a patient heterozygous for this mutation with normal beta- globin gene sequences at the other locus.

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