Background: The uridine diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase 1A1 (UGT1A1) enzyme is responsible for conjugation of the bilirubin in the liver as well as for drug metabolism. Some of the polymorphisms have been associated with an increased risk of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia which may explain the increased incidence of jaundice in an Asian population as well as exaggerated irinotecan-induced leukopenia. Objective: The local Asian incidence of hypomorphic haplotypes, defined as gene mutations known to have a reduced function, has not been described. Clinical correlation between the mutations and the need for phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia was carried out. Methods: A cohort of 241 consecutive term infants delivered in the National University Hospital, Singapore, was recruited with parental consent. Cord blood was collected, and the promoter and coding regions of the UGT1A1 gene were sequenced. Results: Six known haplotypes and 2 novel haplotypes were identified: 1 wild type, 5 with reduced function, while the 2 novel ones were predicted to have decreased function. The frequency of these hypomorphic haplotypes was high. Among the 241 infants screened, 35% had 1 hypomorphic haplotype and 12% had 2 hypomorphic haplotypes. The frequency was also different among ethnic groups, with 48% Chinese, 64% Indian and 31% Malay infants having at least 1 hypomorphic haplotype (χ2 test, p < 0.05). There was a trend seen between the number of G71R mutations and the need for phototherapy (χ2 test for trend, p < 0.05). Conclusions: The local Asian incidence of hypomorphic haplotypes was high and there was a trend between the number of G71R mutations and the need for phototherapy. The G71R mutation may account for the increased incidence of neonatal jaundice seen in Asian populations.

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