NCF1 (p47phox)–deficient chronic granulomatous disease: comprehensive genetic and flow cytometric analysis

Douglas B. Kuhns, Amy P. Hsu, David Sun, Karen Lau, Danielle Fink, Paul Griffith, Da Wei Huang, Debra A. Long Priel, Laura Mendez, Samantha Kreuzburg, Christa S. Zerbe, Suk See De Ravin, Harry L. Malech, Steven M. Holland, Xiaolin Wu and John I. Gallin

Key Points

  • Flow cytometric analysis of p47phox expression in permeabilized neutrophils quickly identifies patients and carriers of p47phox CGD.

  • Genomic ddPCR identifies patients and carriers of ΔGT NCF1, the most common mutation in p47phox CGD.


Mutations in NCF1 (p47phox) cause autosomal recessive chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) with abnormal dihydrorhodamine (DHR) assay and absent p47phox protein. Genetic identification of NCF1 mutations is complicated by adjacent highly conserved (>98%) pseudogenes (NCF1B and NCF1C). NCF1 has GTGT at the start of exon 2, whereas the pseudogenes each delete 1 GT (ΔGT). In p47phox CGD, the most common mutation is ΔGT in NCF1 (c.75_76delGT; p.Tyr26fsX26). Sequence homology between NCF1 and its pseudogenes precludes reliable use of standard Sanger sequencing for NCF1 mutations and for confirming carrier status. We first established by flow cytometry that neutrophils from p47phox CGD patients had negligible p47phox expression, whereas those from p47phox CGD carriers had ∼60% of normal p47phox expression, independent of the specific mutation in NCF1. We developed a droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) with 2 distinct probes, recognizing either the wild-type GTGT sequence or the ΔGT sequence. A second ddPCR established copy number by comparison with the single-copy telomerase reverse transcriptase gene, TERT. We showed that 84% of p47phox CGD patients were homozygous for ΔGT NCF1. The ddPCR assay also enabled determination of carrier status of relatives. Furthermore, only 79.2% of normal volunteers had 2 copies of GTGT per 6 total (NCF1/NCF1B/NCF1C) copies, designated 2/6; 14.7% had 3/6, and 1.6% had 4/6 GTGT copies. In summary, flow cytometry for p47phox expression quickly identifies patients and carriers of p47phox CGD, and genomic ddPCR identifies patients and carriers of ΔGT NCF1, the most common mutation in p47phox CGD.

  • Submitted July 2, 2018.
  • Accepted December 2, 2018.
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