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Many genetic disorders demonstrate mutations that can be traced to a founder, sometimes a person who can be identified. These founder mutations have generated considerable interest, because they facilitate studies of prevalence and penetrance and can be used to quantify the degree of homogeneity within a population. This paper reports on founder mutations among the Dutch and relates their occurrence to the history and demography of the Netherlands. International migration, regional and religious endogamy, and rapid population growth played key roles in shaping the Dutch population. In the first millenniums BC and AD, the Netherlands were invaded by Celts, Romans, Huns, and Germans. In more recent times, large numbers of Huguenots and Germans migrated into the Netherlands. Population growth within the Netherlands was slow until the 19th century, when a period of rapid population growth started. Today, the Dutch population numbers 16 million inhabitants. Several different classes of founder mutations have been identified among the Dutch. Some mutations occur among people who represent genetic isolates within this country. These include mutations for benign familial cholestasis, diabetes mellitus, type I, infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, L-DOPA responsive dystonia, and triphalangeal thumb. Although not related to a specific isolate, other founder mutations were identified only within the Netherlands, including those predisposing for hereditary breast-ovarian cancer, familial hypercholesterolemia, frontotemporal dementia, hereditary paragangliomas, juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, malignant melanoma, protein C deficiency, and San Filippo disease. Many of these show a regional distribution, suggesting dissemination from a founder. Some mutations that occur among the Dutch are shared with other European populations and others have been transmitted by Dutch émigrés to their descendents in North America and South Africa. The occurrence of short chromosomal regions that have remained identical by descent has resulted in relatively limited genetic heterogeneity for many genetic conditions among the Dutch. These observations demonstrate the opportunity for gene discovery for other diseases and traits in the Netherlands.
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- Founder mutations among the Dutch*
Maurice P A Zeegers
Frans van Poppel
- Bohn Stafleu van Loghum