Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized primarily by obesity, polydactyly, retinal dystrophy, and renal disease. The significant genetic and clinical heterogeneity of this condition have substantially hindered efforts to positionally clone the numerous BBS genes, because the majority of available pedigrees are small and the disorder cannot be assigned to any of the six known BBS loci. Consequently, the delineation of critical BBS intervals, which would accelerate the discovery of the underlying genetic defect(s), becomes difficult, especially for loci with minor contributions to the syndrome. We have collected a cohort of 163 pedigrees from diverse ethnic backgrounds and have evaluated them for mutations in the recently discovered BBS6 gene (MKKS) on chromosome 20 and for potential assignment of the disorder to any of the other known BBS loci in the human genome. Using a combination of mutational and haplotype analysis, we describe the spectrum of BBS6 alterations that are likely to be pathogenic; propose substantially reduced critical intervals for BBS2, BBS3, and BBS5; and present evidence for the existence of at least one more BBS locus. Our data also suggest that BBS6 is a minor contributor to the syndrome and that some BBS6 alleles may act in conjunction with mutations at other BBS loci to cause or modify the BBS phenotype.
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