Founder Effect, Hutterites and Spinal Muscular Atrophy

An interesting example of the founder effect.

A common spinal muscular atrophy deletion mutation is present on a single founder haplotype in the US Hutterites

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive (AR) neuromuscular disease that is one of the most common lethal genetic disorders in children, with carrier frequencies as high as ~1 in 35 in US Whites. As part of our genetic studies in the Hutterites from South Dakota, we identified a large 22 Mb run of homozygosity, spanning the SMA locus in an affected child, of which 10 Mb was also homozygous in three affected Hutterites from Montana, supporting a single founder origin for the mutation. We developed a haplotype-based method for identifying carriers of the SMN1 deletion that leveraged existing genome-wide SNP genotype data for ~1400 Hutterites. In combination with two direct PCR-based assays, we identified 176 carriers of the SMN1 deletion, one asymptomatic homozygous adult and three carriers of a de novo deletion. This corresponds to a carrier frequency of one in eight (12.5%) in the South Dakota Hutterites, representing the highest carrier frequency reported to date for SMA and for an AR disease in the Hutterite population. Lastly, we show that 26 SNPs can be used to predict SMA carrier status in the Hutterites, with 99.86% specificity and 99.71% sensitivity.


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