Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a genetically heterogeneous recessive disease characterized primarily by atypical retinitis pigmentosa, obesity, polydactyly, hypogenitalism, and mental retardation. Despite the presence of at least five loci in the human genome, on chromosomes 2q, 3p, 11q, 15q and 16q, as many as 50% of the mutations appear to map to the BBS1 locus on 11q13. The recessive mode of inheritance and the genetic heterogeneity of the syndrome, as well as the inability to distinguish between different genetic loci by phenotypic analyses, have hindered efforts to delineate the 11q13 region as a first step toward cloning the mutated gene. To circumvent these difficulties, we collected a large number of BBS pedigrees of primarily North American and European origin and performed genetic analysis, using microsatellites from all known BBS genomic regions. Heterogeneity analysis established a 40.5% contribution of the 11q13 locus to BBS, and haplotype construction on 11q-linked pedigrees revealed several informative recombinants, defining the BBS1 critical interval between D11S4205 and D11S913, a genetic distance of 2.9 cM, equivalent to ~2.6 Mb. Loss of identity by descent in two consanguineous pedigrees was also observed in the region, potentially refining the region to 1.8 Mb between D11S1883 and D11S4944. The identification of multiple recombinants at the same position forms the basis for physical mapping efforts, coupled with mutation analysis of candidate genes, to identify the gene for BBS1.
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