Screening for mutations in human alpha-globin genes by nonradioactive single-strand conformation polymorphism

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Point mutations and small insertions or deletions in the human α-globin genes may produce α-chain structural variants and α-thalassemia. Mutations can be detected either by direct DNA sequencing or by screening methods, which select the mutated exon for sequencing. Although small (about 1 kb, 3 exons and 2 introns), the α-globin genes are duplicate (α2 and α1) and highy G-C rich, which makes them difficult to denature, reducing sequencing efficiency and causing frequent artifacts. We modified some conditions for PCR and electrophoresis in order to detect mutations in these genes employing nonradioactive single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP). Primers previously described by other authors for radioactive SSCP and phast-SSCP plus denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis were here combined and the resultant fragments (6 new besides 6 original per α-gene) submitted to silver staining SSCP. Nine structural and one thalassemic mutations were tested, under different conditions including two electrophoretic apparatus (PhastSystem™ and GenePhor™, Amersham Biosciences), different polyacrylamide gel concentrations, run temperatures and denaturing agents, and entire and restriction enzyme cut fragments. One hundred percent of sensitivity was achieved with four of the new fragments formed, using the PhastSystem™ and 20% gels at 15°C, without the need of restriction enzymes. This nonradioactive PCR-SSCP approach showed to be simple, rapid and sensitive, reducing the costs involved in frequent sequencing repetitions and increasing the reliability of the results. It can be especially useful for laboratories which do not have an automated sequencer.




Jorge, S. B., Melo, M. B., Costa, F. F., & Sonati, M. F. (2003). Screening for mutations in human alpha-globin genes by nonradioactive single-strand conformation polymorphism. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 36(11), 1471–1474.

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