Fourteen Caucasian families with 81 affected individuals have been assessed in which polycystic ovaries/male pattern baldness (PCO/MPB) segregates as an autosomal dominant phenotype (1). The gene CYP17, coding for P450c17α (17α-hydroxylase; 17/20 lyase) on chromosome 10q24.3 is the rate-limiting step in androgen biosynthesis. We have identified a new single base change in the 5' promoter region of CYP17 by heteroduplex analysis. This creates an additional SP1-type (CCACC box) promoter site, which may cause increased expression. This base change also creates a recognition site for the restriction enzyme MspA1 allowing a simple screening procedure. There is a significant association between the presence of this base change (A2) and the affected state for consecutively identified Caucasian women with PCO as compared either to consecutively matched controls (P = 0.03) with an odds ratio for those with at least one A2 allele of 3.57, or to a random population (P = 0.02) with an odds ratio of 2.50. Within the fourteen families, members with PCO or MPB have a significant association with the occurence of at least one A2 allele compared to their normal relatives, with an odds ratio of 2.20 (P = 0.05). The base change does not co-segregate with the affected phenotype within the families showing association, demonstrating that this mutation of CYP17 does not cause PCO/MPB. Variation in the A2 allele of the CYP17 gene is a significant factor modifying the expression of PCO/MPB in families where it has been demonstrated to segregate as a single gene disorder, but it is excluded as the primary genetic defect.

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