Genetic basis of human complement C4A deficiency. Detection of a point mutation leading to nonexpression.
The fourth component of the human complement system (C4) is coded for by two genes, C4A and C4B, located within the MHC. Null alleles of C4 (C4Q0) are defined by the absence of C4 protein in plasma. These null alleles are due either to large gene deletions or to nonexpression of the respective genes. In a previous study, evidence was obtained for nonexpressed defective genes at the C4A locus, and for gene conversion at the C4B locus. To further characterize the molecular basis of these non-expressed C4A genes, we selected nine pairs of PCR primers from flanking genomic intron sequences to amplify all 41 exons from individuals with a defective C4A gene. The amplified products were subjected to single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis to detect possible mutations. PCR products exhibiting a variation in the SSCP pattern were sequenced directly. In 10 of 12 individuals studied, we detected a 2-bp insertion in exon 29 leading to nonexpression due to the creation of a termination codon, which was observed in linkage to the haplotype HLA-B60-DR6 in seven cases. In one of the other two individuals without this mutation, evidence was obtained for gene conversion to the C4B isotype. The genetic basis of C4A nonexpression in the second individual is not yet known and will be subject to further analysis.