A brother and sister are described with severe microcephaly of prenatal onset, normal intellectual and motor development, chromosomal breakage and cellular immunodeficiency, which is characteristic of the autosomal recessive condition, Nijmegen breakage syndrome. The proband was a girl who presented at 15 months, with normal developmental milestones and an extremely small head circumference of 36 cm. Twenty per cent of her lymphocytes showed spontaneous translocations involving chromosome 7p13, 7q35, 14q11, and 14q32. The lymphocytes also showed excessive x ray induced chromosome damage. She had T cell lymphopenia, but normal immunoglobulins, and a normal alpha fetoprotein. A brother was born shortly after her diagnosis was made. He also had extreme microcephaly of 28 cm, with similar spontaneous and x ray induced chromosomal breakage, and T cell lymphopenia. Neither child has clinical evidence of immunodeficiency. To test the hypothesis that Nijmegen breakage syndrome and ataxia telangiectasia are allelic disorders, haplotype analysis was carried out in the family using DNA markers spanning the AT locus on chromosome 11q22. The affected boy had a different haplotype from his affected sister. Thus in this family, the Nijmegen breakage syndrome is not allelic to the ataxia telangiectasia locus on chromosome 11q, and the two conditions are genetically distinct. The normal intellect in these children raises questions about normal brain development in the presence of severe microcephaly.
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