Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by defects in the copper-transporting P-type ATPase gene (ATP7B) resulting in the accumulation of copper in the liver and the brain. We identified prevalent mutations in the ATP7B of Indian WD patients and attempted to correlate those with the disease phenotype. Patients from 62 unrelated families and their first-degree relatives comprising 200 individuals were enrolled in this study. Three dinucleotide repeat markers flanking WD locus and a few intragenic SNPs were used to determine the genotypes and construct haplotypes of the patients. Seven recurring haplotypes accounting for 58% of the total mutant chromosomes were identified, and four underlying defects in the ATP7B representing 37% of WD chromosomes were detected. In addition, five other rare mutations were characterized. Thus a total of nine mutations including five novel changes were identified in the ATP7B of WD patients. Interestingly, homozygotes for different mutations that would be expected to produce similar defective proteins showed significant disparity in terms of organ involvement and severity of the disease. We also observed WD patients with neurological symptoms with little or no manifestation of hepatic pathogenesis. In one WD family, the proband and a sib had remarkably different phenotypes despite sharing the same pair of mutant chromosomes. These findings suggest a potential role for yet unidentified modifying loci for the observed phenotypic heterogeneity among the WD patients.
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