To investigate the molecular epidemiological basis for the unusually high incidence of sclerocornea, aphakia, and microphthalmia in a village in the Tlaxcala province of central Mexico.
A population census was performed in a village to identify all sclerocornea, aphakia, and microphthalmia cases. Molecular analysis of the previously identified Forkhead box protein E3 (FOXE3) mutation, c.292T>C (p.Y98H), was performed with PCR amplification and direct DNA sequencing. In addition, DNA from 405 randomly selected unaffected villagers was analyzed to establish the carrier frequency of the causal mutation. To identify the number of generations since the mutation arose in the village, 17 polymorphic markers distributed in a region of 6 Mb around the mutated locus were genotyped in the affected individuals, followed by DMLE software analysis to calculate mutation age.
A total of 22 patients with sclerocornea, aphakia, and microphthalmia were identified in the village, rendering a disease prevalence of 2.52 cases per 1,000 habitants (1 in 397). The FOXE3 homozygous mutation was identified in all 17 affected subjects who consented to molecular analysis. Haplotype analysis indicated that the mutation arose 5.0–6.5 generations ago (approximately 106–138 years). Among the 405 unaffected villagers who were genotyped, ten heterozygote carriers were identified, yielding a population carrier frequency of approximately 1 in 40 and a predicted incidence of affected of 1 in 6,400 based on random marriages between two carriers in the village.
This study demonstrates that a cluster of patients with sclerocornea, aphakia, and microphthalmia in a small Mexican village is due to a FOXE3 p.Y98H founder mutation that arose in the village just over a century ago at a time when a population migrated from a nearby village because of land disputes. The actual disease incidence is higher than the calculated predicted value and suggests non-random marriages (i.e., consanguinity) within the population. We can now offer the community more informed genetic counseling based on an accurate genetic test, thus increasing the likelihood of a better outcome for the families.