Two different mutations were found in two unrelated probands with lethal chondrodysplasias, one with achondrogenesis type II and the other with the less severe phenotype of hypochondrogenesis. The mutations in the COL2A1 gene were identified by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis of genomic DNA followed by dideoxynucleotide sequencing and restriction site analysis. The proband with achondrogenesis type II had a heterozygous single-base mutation that substituted aspartate for glycine at position 310 of the alpha 1(II) chain of type II procollagen. The proband with hypochondrogenesis had a heterozygous single-base mutation that substituted serine for glycine at position 805. Type II collagen extracted from cartilage from the probands demonstrated the presence of type I collagen and a delayed electrophoretic mobility, indicating post-translational overmodifications. Analysis of CNBr peptides showed that, in proband 1, the entire peptides were overmodified. Examination of chondrocytes cultured in agarose or alginate indicated that there was a delayed secretion of type II procollagen. In addition, type II collagen synthesized by cartilage fragments from the probands demonstrated a decreased thermal stability. The melting temperature of the type II collagen containing the aspartate-for-glycine substitution was reduced by 4 degrees C, and that of the collagen containing the serine-for-glycine substitution was reduced by 2 degrees C. Electron microscopy of the extracellular matrix from the chondrocyte cultures showed a decreased density of matrix and the presence of unusually short and thin fibrils. Our results indicate that glycine substitutions in the N-terminal region of the type II collagen molecule can produce more severe phenotypes than mutations in the C-terminal region. The aspartate-for-glycine substitution at position 310, which was associated with defective secretion and a probable increased degradation of collagen, is the most destabilizing mutation yet reported in type II procollagen.

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