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Human molecular genetics

Pitx1 haploinsufficiency causes clubfoot in humans and a clubfoot-like phenotype in mice.


PMID 21775501

Abstract

Clubfoot affects 1 in 1000 live births, although little is known about its genetic or developmental basis. We recently identified a missense mutation in the PITX1 bicoid homeodomain transcription factor in a family with a spectrum of lower extremity abnormalities, including clubfoot. Because the E130K mutation reduced PITX1 activity, we hypothesized that PITX1 haploinsufficiency could also cause clubfoot. Using copy number analysis, we identified a 241 kb chromosome 5q31 microdeletion involving PITX1 in a patient with isolated familial clubfoot. The PITX1 deletion segregated with autosomal dominant clubfoot over three generations. To study the role of PITX1 haploinsufficiency in clubfoot pathogenesis, we began to breed Pitx1 knockout mice. Although Pitx1(+/-) mice were previously reported to be normal, clubfoot was observed in 20 of 225 Pitx1(+/-) mice, resulting in an 8.9% penetrance. Clubfoot was unilateral in 16 of the 20 affected Pitx1(+/-) mice, with the right and left limbs equally affected, in contrast to right-sided predominant hindlimb abnormalities previously noted with complete loss of Pitx1. Peroneal artery hypoplasia occurred in the clubfoot limb and corresponded spatially with small lateral muscle compartments. Tibial and fibular bone volumes were also reduced. Skeletal muscle gene expression was significantly reduced in Pitx1(-/-) E12.5 hindlimb buds compared with the wild-type, suggesting that muscle hypoplasia was due to abnormal early muscle development and not disuse atrophy. Our morphological data suggest that PITX1 haploinsufficiency may cause a developmental field defect preferentially affecting the lateral lower leg, a theory that accounts for similar findings in human clubfoot.