Abstract

A locus for triphalangeal thumb, variably associated with pre-axial polydactyly, was previously identified in the zone of polarizing activity regulatory sequence (ZRS), a long range limb-specific enhancer of the Sonic Hedgehog ( SHH ) gene at human chromosome 7q36.3. Here, we demonstrate that a 295T>C variant in the human ZRS , previously thought to represent a neutral polymorphism, acts as a dominant allele with reduced penetrance. We found this variant in three independently ascertained probands from southern England with triphalangeal thumb, demonstrated significant linkage of the phenotype to the variant (LOD = 4.1), and identified a shared microsatellite haplotype around the ZRS , suggesting that the probands share a common ancestor. An individual homozygous for the 295C allele presented with isolated bilateral triphalangeal thumb resembling the heterozygous phenotype, suggesting that the variant is largely dominant to the wild-type allele. As a functional test of the pathogenicity of the 295C allele, we utilized a mutated ZRS construct to demonstrate that it can drive ectopic anterior expression of a reporter gene in the developing mouse forelimb. We conclude that the 295T>C variant is in fact pathogenic and, in southern England, appears to be the most common cause of triphalangeal thumb. Depending on the dispersal of the founding mutation, it may play a wider role in the aetiology of this disorder.

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