Large genomic rearrangements are recognized as playing a pathogenic role in an increasing number of human genetic diseases. It is important to develop efficient methods for the routine detection and confirmation of these germline defects. Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) is considered an early step for molecular diagnosis of several genetic disorders. However, artifacts might hamper the interpretation of MLPA analysis, especially when rearrangements involve a single exon. Therefore, rearrangements must be verified by two independent methods. In this study, we developed nonfluorescent multiplex-PCR coupled to high-performance liquid chromatography (NFMP-HPLC) and analyzed whether the use of this method combined with MLPA could be helpful in the detection and confirmation of gross MSH2 and MLH1 genomic rearrangements. A total of nine nonfluorescent multiplex-PCRs were developed to analyze the 16 MSH2 and 19 MLH1 exons. Reliable multiplex amplifications and nonfluorescent peak quantitation were obtained with a limited number of cycles (< or = 25) using a denaturing HPLC (DHPLC) instrument under nondenaturing conditions. The results obtained by NFMP-HPLC were highly reproducible. The combined use of MLPA and NFMP-HPLC identified and independently confirmed putative MLH1 and MSH2 deletions in eight out of 50 unrelated patients with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). In five cases, the deletions affected a single exon and in three cases multiple contiguous exons. These results were in agreement with breakpoint and complementary DNA (cDNA) analyses. Considering that MLPA and NFMP-HPLC are unlikely to be affected by the same artifacts, their combined use could also provide a robust and cost-effective strategy for routine screening and confirmation of putative rearrangements in other genes, especially when a single exon is involved or a precise characterization of breakpoints is not achieved.
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