Scientists have identified a gene that appears to be responsiblefor Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited form ofmental retardation.

The gene, called FRM-1, or fragile X mental retardation-1, canbe used to diagnose Fragile X syndrome, said Dr. StephenWarren of Emory University in Atlanta, director of the studythat appears in today's issue of Cell. Patent applications havebeen filed on the discovery, he said.

This report comes just a week after two articles in Science, oneco-authored by Warren, described DNA fragments that pinpointthe Fragile X defect.

Fragile X syndrome, which affects one in 1,200 males and onein 2,500 females, causes X chromosomes to break easily. Thebreakage causes mental retardation in most individuals.

The FRM-1 gene in Fragile X individuals is much larger than itsnormal counterpart. The size increase is due to insertions ofDNA into FRM-1 or amplifications of short segments of DNAwithin the gene.

FRM-1 is expressed in human brain cells as would be expectedof a gene that influences intelligence, said Warren.

He and his colleagues are refining the DNA diagnostic and aredeveloping an antibody-based assay. -- CTV

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