Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) is a recessive disorder characterized by episodes of fever with serositis or synovitis. The FMF gene (MEFV) was cloned recently, and four missense mutations were identified. Here we present data from non-Ashkenazi Jewish and Arab patients in whom we had not originally found mutations and from a new, more ethnically diverse panel. Among 90 symptomatic mutation-positive individuals, 11 mutations accounted for 79% of carrier chromosomes. Of the two mutations that are novel, one alters the same residue (680) as a previously known mutation, and the other (P369S) is located in exon 3. Consistent with another recent report, the E148Q mutation was observed in patients of several ethnicities and on multiple microsatellite haplotypes, but haplotype data indicate an ancestral relationships between non-Jewish Italian and Ashkenazi Jewish patients with FMF and other affected populations. Among -200 anonymous Ashkenazi Jewish DNA samples, the MEFV carrier frequency was 21%, with E148Q the most common mutation. Several lines of evidence indicate reduced penetrance among Ashkenazi Jews, especially for E148Q, P369S, and K695R. Nevertheless, E148Q helps account for recessive inheritance in an Ashkenazi family previously reported as an unusual case of dominantly inherited FMF. The presence of three frequent MEFV mutations in multiple Mediterranean populations strongly suggests a heterozygote advantage in this geographic region.
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