Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a human autosomal recessive disorder of childhood1,2 characterized by: (1) progressive cerebellar ataxia with degeneration of Purkinje cells; (2) hypersensitivity of fibroblasts and lymphocytes to ionizing radiation3; (3) a 61-fold and 184-fold increased cancer incidence in white and black patients, respectively4; (4) non-random chromosomal rearrangements in lymphocytes; (5) thymic hypoplasia with cellular and humoral (IgA and IgG2) immunodeficiencies; (6) elevated serum level of alphafetoprotein; (7) premature ageing; and (8) endocrine disorders, such as insulin-resistant diabetes mellitus. A DNA processing or repair protein is the suspected common denominator in this pathology5. Heterozygotes are generally healthy; however, the sensitivity of their cultured cells to ionizing radiation is intermediate between normal individuals and that of affected homozygotes6. Furthermore, heterozygous females are at an increased risk of breast cancer7,8. These findings, when coupled with an estimated carrier frequency of 0.5-5.0%, suggest that (1) as many as one in five women with breast cancer may carry the AT gene7 and that (2) the increased radiation sensitivity of AT heterozygotes may be causing radiation therapists to reduce the doses of radiation used for treating cancer in all patients10. To identify the genetic defect responsible for this multifaceted disorder, and to provide effective carrier detection, we performed a genetic linkage analysis of 31 families with AT-affected members. This has allowed us to localize a gene for AT to chromosomal region 11q22-23.
ASJC Scopus subject areas