The genotype-phenotype relationship in CF is complex despite its being a monogenic disorder. Factors that contribute to variability among individuals with the same genotype are an area of intense study. Nevertheless, certain conclusions can be derived from these studies. First, mutations in both CFTR alleles cause the CF phenotype. Homozygosity for ΔF508 or compound heterozygosity for ΔF508 and another severe mutation (e.g., G551D, W1282X) cause classic CF: obstructive pulmonary disease, exocrine pancreatic deficiency, male infertility, and elevated sweat chloride concentrations. Clinical variability is observed among patients with the classic form of CF, especially with regards to the severity of lung disease. Although understanding of the role of other genes and environment in the development of lung disease is incomplete, evidence that other factors are important raises the possibility that therapeutic intervention may be possible at several levels. Second, genotype correlates more closely with certain features of the CF phenotype than others. Mutations that allow partial function of CFTR are often associated with pancreatic sufficiency, occasionally identified with normal sweat gland function, and sporadically correlated with mild lung disease. Partially functioning mutants rarely prevent maldevelopment of the male reproductive tract; an exception is 3849 + 10Kb C→T. These observations suggest that certain tissues require different levels of CFTR function to avoid the pathologic manifestations typical of CF. The genetic cause of several disorders that clinically overlap CF can be attributed, in part, to mutations in CFTR. Finally, molecular analysis of disease-associated mutations identified through genotype-phenotype studies provides a mechanistic framework for genotype-based therapeutic approaches and pharmaceutical interventions.
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