Type I osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is characterized clinically by a moderate fracture frequency with minimal bone deformity and dominant inheritance. Previous studies of the collagenous proteins synthesized by dermal fibroblasts obtained from unrelated patients with this form of OI suggested that the biochemical basis of the disease was reduced production of type I collagen. This study was designed to determine if this biochemical finding segregated with the disease within an individual family. Dermal fibroblast strains were established from three generations of a family having the typical features of type I OI. Analysis of the collagenous proteins made in culture revealed an elevated α1(III) to α1(I) collagen type ratio and an elevated α1(I) to α2(I) collagen chain ratio. The procollagen that accumulated in the medium reflected these ratios to the same degree. Total collagen synthesis was significantly reduced in affected family members. Therefore, the most striking abnormality in affected members was a 50-75% reduction of type I collagen production. Furthermore, the ratio of the α1(I)/α2(I) collagen messenger RNA (mRNA), measured by dot hybridization, was one-half of the value of uninvolved family members and unrelated controls. Since the reduction in the production of type I collagen and the altered α1(I)/α2(I) mRNA ratio clearly segregated with affected individuals within this family, these biochemical measurements may be a useful genetic marker for type I OI.
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