The purpose of these studies was to determine the molecular basis of the phenotypic mosaicism that is a defining feature of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH). Analysis of T cell clones from a female patient revealed four distinct phenotypes based on surface expression of glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins (GPI-AP). When PIG-A (the gene that is mutant in PNH) from these clones was analyzed, four discrete somatic mutations were identified. Analysis of X chromosomal inactivation among the abnormal T cell clones was consistent with polyclonality. Together, these studies demonstrate that the phenotypic mosaicism that is characteristic of PNH is a consequence of genotypic mosaicism and that, at least in this case, PNH is a polyclonal rather than a monoclonal disease. That four distinct somatic mutations were present in a single patient suggests that in conditions that predispose to PNH PIG-A may be hypermutable.

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