A method is described for detecting carriers of a variant plasma prealbumin that is associated with familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy (FAP) type I. It is based on the finding of an extra methionine in the variant prealbumin, at position 30 from the amino terminus. Since normal prealbumin has only one methionine (position 13), treatment with cyanogen bromide (CNBr), which cleaves only at methionines, results in two peptides. CNBr treatment of the variant prealbumin gives three peptides. The extra peptide can then be detected in two ways: by HPLC using a reverse phase C18 column, and by sequential Edman degradation. Each method can detect as little as 1% variant prealbumin in isolated plasma prealbumin, and therefore, can identify carriers of the gene for the variant protein. Since FAP type I usually is not manifest until after the childbearing years, this method to identify carriers of the gene offers a new approach for genetic counseling of families with this disease. To date, kindreds with hereditary amyloidosis that could benefit from these studies include those with FAP type I of Swedish, Japanese, and Portuguese origins.
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