A mechanism is proposed for the inheritance and expression of the fragile-X-linked syndrome of mental retardation in humans. Two independent events are required for expression of the syndrome: the fragile-X mutation, and X chromosome inactivation in pre-oogonial cells. The fragile-X mutation at site Xq27 has little or no effect until the chromosome is inactivated in a female as part of the process of dosage compensation. At a stage where the inactivated X chromosome would normally be reactivated in preparation for oogenesis, the mutation results in a local block to the reactivation process. This block to reactivation leads to mental retardation in progeny by reducing the level of products from the unreactivated Xq27 region in male cells, and, for a heterozygous female, in somatic cells in which the normal X chromosome has been inactivated. Published data relevant to this proposed mechanism are discussed.
- Received July 10, 1987.
- Accepted July 31, 1987.