Expression of clinical findings of Waardenburg syndrome type 1 (WS1) and type 2 (WS2) is extremely variable. Using our collection of 26 WS1 and 8 WS2 families, we analyzed the occurrence, severity, and symmetry of clinical manifestations associated with WS. We found significant differences between WS1 and WS2 in deafness, and in pigmentary and craniofacial anomalies. Factor analysis was used to identify manifestations which covaried, resulting in 2 orthogonal factors. Since mean factor scores were found to differ when compared between WS1 and WS2, we suggest that these factors could be useful in distinguishing WS types. We found that the WS gene was transmitted from mothers more often than from fathers. We also extensively examined the W- Index, a continuous measure of dystopia canthorum. Our data suggest that use of the W-Index to discriminate between affected WS1 and WS2 individuals may be problematic since 1) ranges of W-Index scores of affected and unaffected individuals overlapped considerably within both WS1 and WS2, and 2) a considerable number of both affected and unaffected WS2 individuals exhibited W-index scores consistent with dystopia canthorum. Misclassification of families may have implications for risk assessment of deafness, since WS2 families have been reported to have greater incidence of deafness, as confirmed in our study.
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