Although mosaicism can have important implications for genetic counseling of families with hereditary disorders, information regarding the incidence of mosaicism is available for only a few genetic diseases. Here we describe an evaluation of 156 families with retinoblastoma; the initial oncogenic mutation in the retinoblastoma gene had been identified in these families. In 15 (~10%) families, we were able to document mosaicism for the initial mutation in the retinoblastoma gene, either in the proband or in one of the proband's parents. The true incidence of mosaicism in this group of 156 families is probably higher than our findings indicate; in some additional families beyond the 15 we identified, mosaicism was likely but could not be proven, because somatic or germ-line DNA from key family members was unavailable. Germ-line DNA from two mosaic fathers was analyzed: in one of these, the mutation was detected in both sperm and leukocyte DNA; in the other, the mutation was detected only in sperm DNA. Our data suggest that mosaicism is more common than is generally appreciated, especially in disorders such as retinoblastoma, in which a high proportion of cases represent new mutations. The possibility of mosaicism should always be considered during the genetic counseling of newly identified families with retinoblastoma. As demonstrated here, genetic tests of germ-line DNA can provide valuable information that is not available through analysis of somatic (leukocyte) DNA.
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