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Clin Genet. 2007 Oct;72(4):345-50.

Non-random maternal X-chromosome inactivation associated with PHACES.

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  • 1Unit on Pediatric Genetics, Laboratory of Clinical Genomics, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The acronym PHACES is used to describe the association of posterior fossa malformations, hemangiomas, arterial anomalies (cardiovascular or cerebrovascular), coarctation of the aorta and cardiac defects, eye abnormalities, and sternal or ventral defects. We report a female patient with an uncommon variant of this neurocutaneous disorder who manifested a sternal cleft; supraumbilical raphe; hemangiomas of the face, chest, and extremities; micrognathia and cerebrovascular anomalies. A literature review of PHACES patients with both sternal cleft and supraumbilical raphe showed a marked female predilection. Taken together with cases of sternal cleft, supraumbilical raphe and facial hemangiomas tabulated by Gorlin et al. (1994), 91% (40/44) of patients are female. One affected male died shortly after birth. We hypothesized that the gender bias in PHACES results from mutation in an X-linked dominant gene often lethal in males, and performed X-inactivation analysis of the polymorphic androgen receptor locus in this family. We documented consistently skewed X-inactivation (80%/20% in two independent analyses) in the unaffected mother and consistently random X-inactivation (47:53 and 61:39 in independent analyses) in the proband. These findings are consistent with favorably skewed X-inactivation producing a normal maternal phenotype, a phenomenon documented in X-linked dominant Rett syndrome.

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