S. Michelini, D. Degiorgio, M. Cestari, D. Corda, M. Ricci, M. Cardone,
A. Mander, L. Famoso, E. Contini, R. Serrani, L. Pinelli, S. Cecchin, M. Bertelli

Department of Vascular Rehabilitation (SM,MC), San Giovanni Battista Hospital, Rome, Italy; Laboratory of Molecular Genetics (DD,LP,SC,MB), International Association of Medical Genetics -MAGI-onlus-; Pianeta Linfedema Study Center (MC,LF); Centro Medico e Riabilitativo per la Ricerca, la Diagnosi e la Cura del Linfedema (DC,EC); Medicina Riabilitativa (MR, RS), Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti di Ancona; Rehabilitative Centre Vaclav Vojta (AM), Roma, Italy.

Primary lymphedema is characterized by altered morphological development of lymphatic vessels causing fluid accumulation in interstitial spaces. In familial forms, it is primarily transmitted as a dominant Mendelian trait with heterozygous mutations in genes involved in lymphangiogenesis. We used PCR and direct sequencing to analyze the region of the fms-related tyrosine kinase 4 (FLT4) gene encoding the "tyrosine-kinase domain" and the single exon of the forkhead box C2 (FOXC2) gene in 46 Italian probands with primary lymphedema, 42 of whom had familial forms. We identified 12 mutations in 12 patients (12/46, 26%), six in the FLT4 gene and six in the FOXC2 gene. Most of the mutations (9/12, 75%) were new, and none were identified in 100 healthy subjects or listed in the NCBI dbSNP. A clear relation emerged between genotype and phenotype because 4/5 (80%) probands with onset at birth showed FLT4 mutations and 4/5 (80%) probands without distichiasis and with FOXC2 mutations had an amino-acid substitution outside the forkhead domain. Besides the allelic heterogeneity shown by unique mutations in each proband, the absence of mutations in almost 75% of  familial cases of primary lymphedema also suggests genetic heterogeneity.

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