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Russell-Silver Syndrome

Synonym: Silver-Russell Syndrome

, MD.

Author Information

Initial Posting: ; Last Update: June 2, 2011.

Estimated reading time: 26 minutes


Clinical characteristics.

Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS) is characterized by intrauterine growth retardation accompanied by postnatal growth deficiency. The birth weight of affected infants is typically two or more SD below the mean, and postnatal growth two or more SD below the mean for length or height. Affected individuals typically have proportionately short stature, normal head circumference, fifth-finger clinodactyly, typical facial features with triangular facies characterized by broad forehead and narrow chin, and limb-length asymmetry that may result from hemihypotrophy with diminished growth of the affected side. Growth velocity is normal in children with RSS. The average adult height of males is 151.2 cm and that of females is 139.9 cm. Evidence exists that children with RSS are at significant risk for developmental delay (both motor and cognitive) and learning disabilities.


RSS is a genetically heterogeneous condition and for most affected individuals represents a phenotype rather than a specific disorder. The diagnosis is therefore primarily based on identification of consistent clinical features, especially prenatal and postnatal growth retardation with normal head circumference. Hypomethylation of the paternal imprinting center 1 (IC1) of chromosome 11p15.5 is identified in 35%-50% of individuals with RSS. About 10% of individuals with RSS have maternal uniparental disomy for chromosome 7 (UPD7).


Treatment of manifestations: May include growth hormone therapy; physical, occupational, speech, and language therapy; and an individualized education plan. Treatment of gastroesophageal reflux initially with positioning and thickened feeds is recommended along with use of acid-blocking medications (proton pump inhibitors or ranitidine); surgical management with fundoplication may be necessary. Lower-limb length discrepancy exceeding 3 cm requires intervention; in older children, distraction osteogenesis or epiphysiodesis can be considered. Severe micrognathia or cleft palate is managed by a multidisciplinary craniofacial team. Males with cryptorchidism should be referred to a urologist; orchiopexy may be required. Males with micropenis should be referred to an endocrinologist; androgenic hormone therapy may be indicated.

Surveillance: Monitoring of: growth velocity; blood glucose concentration for hypoglycemia in infants and as needed in older children; limb length at each well-child visit in early childhood for evidence of asymmetric growth; and speech/language development.

Genetic counseling.

RSS has multiple etiologies including: epigenetic changes that modify expression of genes in the imprinted region of chromosome 11p15.5, maternal UPD7, and (infrequently) autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive inheritance. When a proband has RSS as the result of paternal hypomethylation at IC1 or maternal UPD7, both parents are predicted to be unaffected, the risk to the sibs is not increased over that of the general population, and the risk to offspring is probably low. Because most occurrences of RSS are in a single family member only, most pregnancies are not identified to be at increased risk for the disorder. Therefore, prenatal diagnosis for RSS is usually not possible. For pregnancies in which intrauterine growth retardation is identified by fetal ultrasonography, prenatal testing is possible for loss of paternal methylation at the H19-IGF2 IC1 and maternal UPD7. Note: Intrauterine growth retardation often cannot be satisfactorily identified until the third trimester.


Clinical Diagnosis

The clinical diagnosis of RSS depends on the presence of intrauterine growth retardation accompanied by postnatal growth deficiency [Silver et al 1953, Russell 1954, Price et al 1999]. No signs or features are pathognomonic for RSS.

Although several helpful diagnostic scoring systems have been developed for RSS, the more recent studies of Netchine et al [2007] and Bartholdi et al [2009] focused primarily on phenotypic findings of individuals with 11p15.5 methylation abnormalities (see Testing). Furthermore, many persons with RSS lack typical clinical features and have a more subtle presentation, an observation supported by the studies of Eggermann et al [2009] that identified growth retardation, asymmetry, and prominence of the forehead that was milder than usual in persons with RSS who had 11p15.5 epimutations. Wakeling et al [2010] also showed that the clinical features of RSS are not consistent in all persons.

The following criteria, compiled from information included in the studies of Netchine et al [2007], Bartholdi et al [2009], Eggermann et al [2009], and Wakeling et al [2010], indicate that the diagnosis of RSS and supportive laboratory testing should be considered in individuals who have three major criteria or two major and two minor criteria.

  • Major criteria
    • Intrauterine growth retardation/small for gestational age (<10th percentile)
    • Postnatal growth with height/length <3rd percentile
    • Normal head circumference (3rd-97th percentile)
    • Limb, body, and/or facial asymmetry
  • Minor criteria
    • Short (arm) span with normal upper- to lower-segment ratio
    • Fifth-finger clinodactyly
    • Triangular facies
    • Frontal bossing/prominent forehead
  • Supportive criteria
    • Café au lait spots or skin pigmentary changes
    • Genitourinary anomalies (cryptorchidism, hypospadias)
    • Motor, speech, and/or cognitive delays
    • Feeding disorder
    • Hypoglycemia

Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS) is a genetically heterogeneous condition (see Testing) with a consistent but variable phenotype: children with RSS demonstrate varying responses to growth hormone, variable late catch-up growth, and variable developmental outcomes.


The two known causes of RSS are chromosome 11p15.5-related Russell-Silver syndrome and chromosome 7-related Russell-Silver syndrome.

Chromosome 11p15.5-related Russell-Silver syndrome is associated primarily with abnormalities at an imprinted domain on chromosome 11p15.5 [Abu-Amero et al 2010]. The 11p15.5 chromosome region has a cluster of imprinted genes that play a critical role in fetal and placental growth. Genomic imprinting is a phenomenon whereby the DNA of each allele of a gene is differentially modified resulting in monoallelic expression of only one parental allele; the parental allele that is expressed is specific to each imprinted gene.

Imprinted genes often occur in clusters that include a regulatory imprinting center (IC). At one of the 11p15.5 imprinted clusters, parent-specific differential methylation of imprinting center 1 (IC1) regulates reciprocal expression of IGF2, which encodes a growth factor crucial for fetal development, and H19, a noncoding transcript (Figure 1A). In RSS, hypomethylation of IC1 leads to biallelic H19 expression and biallelic silencing of IGF2 resulting in growth restriction (Figure 1B). See Molecular Genetic Pathogenesis.

Figure 1. . 11p15.

Figure 1.

11p15.5-Related Russell-Silver Syndrome. Schematic representation of the imprinting cluster Diagram A. The chromosome 11p15.5 imprinting cluster is functionally divided into two domains:

  • Methylation analysis
    • Hypomethylation at IC1 on the paternal chromosome is detected in 30%-50% of individuals with RSS (Figure 1B). Because IC1 regulates methylation of IGF2 and H19, differential analysis showed that in most cases both of these genes are hypomethylated.
    • Because 11p15.5 hypomethylation at the paternal IC1 is a postzygotic event, most individuals with RSS have a somatic distribution of abnormal methylation patterns (see Table 1 for testing implications).
    • A small number of individuals with RSS have selective hypomethylation of only H19 or only IGF2 [Bartholdi et al 2009].
    • A small number of individuals with RSS have abnormal hypermethylation of IGF2R (the gene encoding the IGF2 receptor on chromosome 6q25-q27) with normal methylation of H19 [Turner et al 2010]. In these instances RSS may result from reduction of IGF2R, which functions to clear IGF2 from circulation thereby limiting its growth effects [Braulke 1999].
  • Deletion/duplication analysis

Chromosome 7-related Russell-Silver syndrome

See Figure 1.

Table 1.

Molecular Genetic Testing Used in Russell-Silver Syndrome

RSS TypeGenetic MechanismTest MethodMutations/Alterations Detected 1Proportion of RSS Attributed to this Genetic Mechanism 2
Chromosome 11p15.5-related RSSLoss of IC1 methylation of paternal 11p15.5Methylation analysisHypomethylation of paternal IC1 3, 4~35%-50%
Duplication of maternal 11p15.5Deletion/duplication analysis 511p15.5 duplicationsUnknown
Chromosome 7-related RSSUPD (maternal)UPD analysis (various methods) 6Chromosome 7 maternal disomy 7~7%-10%
Deletion/ duplicationDeletion/duplication analysis, cytogenetic analysisChromosome 7 anomaliesRare

See Molecular Genetics for information on mutations/alterations detected.


The ability of the test method used to detect an alteration based on genetic mechanism and chromosome location


False negatives may occur as a result of mosaicism, as 11p15.5 hypomethylation occurs post fertilization. Testing of tissue from a second source (e.g., buccal cells or fibroblasts) should be performed.


Methylation-specific 11p15.5 testing is not recommended for prenatal diagnosis, due to uncertainty of the timing of methylation of specific loci in the embryo.


Testing that identifies exon or multigene deletions/duplications not readily detectable by sequence analysis of the coding and flanking intronic regions of genomic DNA. Methods used may include: quantitative PCR, long-range PCR, multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA), and chromosomal microarray (CMA) that includes this gene/chromosome segment.


Various methods can detect UPD, for example: SNP or marker analysis, MS-MLPA (methylation specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification). Testing may require parental blood specimens.


Mosaicism has been observed in cases of maternal UPD7 and other chromosome 7 rearrangements; testing of an alternate tissue source may be appropriate.

Testing Strategy

To confirm/establish the diagnosis in a proband. The recommended order of testing for RSS is the following:

  • If RSS is suspected on clinical grounds, ordering methylation studies of IC1 at 11p15.5 and UPD7 studies simultaneously is most effective. Methylation studies would detect any 11p15.5 duplications or deletions. For the 11p15.5 region, MS-MLPA is the most robust testing methodology and can detect all three mechanisms: methylation abnormality, UPD11, and/or deletion/duplication of the region. If testing of lymphoblasts is negative, consider mosaicism in the patient and re-test other tissues (e.g., buccal cells).
  • If clinical suspicion of RSS is low, deletion/duplication analysis with array genomic hybridization should be performed first.

An algorithm for molecular genetic testing has been published by Eggermann et al [2010] (full text).

Clinical Characteristics

Clinical Description

The most critical diagnostic clinical features [Price et al 1999]:

  • Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR): birth weight 2 SD or more below the mean
  • Postnatal growth retardation: length or height 2 SD or more below the mean
  • Normal head circumference, often with the appearance of "pseudohydrocephalus"
  • Fifth-finger clinodactyly
  • Limb-length asymmetry

Additional features that can aid in the diagnosis:

  • Short stature with normal upper- to lower-segment ratio, normal skeletal survey, and frequently delayed bone age
  • Typical facial phenotype of broad prominent forehead with small triangular face, small narrow chin, and down-turned corners of the mouth
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Brachydactyly, camptodactyly
  • Café au lait spots
  • Arm span less than height

Growth. The early problems for children with Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS) are generally related to growth and feeding. Children with RSS have intrauterine growth retardation with postnatal growth deficiency. Growth parameters with growth charts for European children with RSS have been published [Wollmann et al 1995]. Growth charts for North American children with RSS are available from the MAGIC Foundation.

Growth velocity is normal. In individuals with RSS not treated with growth hormone, the average adult height of males is 151.2 cm (-7.8 SD) and that of females is 139.9 cm (-9 SD) [Wollmann et al 1995].

Growth is expected to be proportionate, although most individuals with RSS have a short arm span compared to height with a normal upper- to lower-segment ratio [Silver et al 1953, Saal et al 1985].

See Management for use of growth hormone therapy to influence growth in children with RSS. Note: Many children with RSS do not achieve normal stature even with administration of human growth hormone.

Most children said to have RSS who have demonstrated catch-up growth in later childhood [Saal et al 1985] probably had conditions other than classic RSS.

Growth hormone deficiency. A study of 24 children with RSS found hypoglycemia in ten children; growth hormone insufficiency (as determined by glucagon stimulation testing) was found in several of the children and posited as one likely cause of the hypoglycemia [Azcona & Stanhope 2005].

Skeletal abnormalities in individuals with RSS are generally limited to limb-length asymmetry that, at least in some individuals, may be hemihypotrophy with diminished growth of the affected side.

Because it is used as a diagnostic criterion, fifth-finger clinodactyly is among the most frequently described skeletal anomalies in individuals with RSS.

In a systematic study of orthopedic manifestations in 25 individuals with RSS, 19 had metacarpal and phalangeal abnormalities, nine had scoliosis, five had toe syndactyly, and three had developmental dysplasia of the hips [Abraham et al 2004].

Neurodevelopment. Besides the growth issues, neurodevelopment is probably of greatest concern to parents. Despite reassurances about "normal intelligence" in individuals with RSS in earlier reports, evidence is increasing that children with this condition are at significant risk for developmental delay (both motor and cognitive) and learning disabilities.

  • In a study of 20 children with RSS between ages six and 12 years, the average IQ was 86. In addition, 36% of these children required special education and 48% required speech therapy [Lai et al 1994]. The specific etiology of the RSS was not identified for any of the children studied.
  • In another study, the average IQ in 36 children with RSS was 95.7 compared to 104.20 in sibling controls. Of note, the two children with maternal uniparental disomy for chromosome 7 had IQs of 81 and 84, respectively [Noeker & Wollmann 2004].
  • In a review of a large cohort with either 11p15 methylation defects or maternal UPD7, mild developmental delays were more commonly seen in those with UPD77 compared to those with 11p15 methylation defects (65% vs. 20%). Speech delays were common in both groups [Wakeling et al 2010].

Hypoglycemia. Children with RSS have little subcutaneous fat, are quite thin, and often have poor appetites; they are at risk for hypoglycemia with any prolonged fast, including surgery [Tomiyama et al 1999]. In a study of children with RSS, contributing factors for hypoglycemia included reduced caloric intake, often secondary to poor appetite and feeding; reduced body mass; and, in several children, growth hormone deficiency [Azcona & Stanhope 2005]. While most children had clinical symptoms of hypoglycemia, especially diaphoresis (excessive sweating), several were asymptomatic.

Diaphoresis in early childhood may be associated with hypoglycemia, although diaphoresis may occur in the absence of hypoglycemia [Stanhope et al 1998].

Gastrointestinal disorders are common [Anderson et al 2002]. Problems include gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophagitis, food aversion, and failure to thrive. Some of these issues may be iatrogenic (i.e., related to treatments for poor growth). Reflux esophagitis should be suspected in children with either food aversion or aspiration.

Severe craniofacial anomalies are uncommon. Some individuals with RSS have Pierre Robin sequence and cleft palate. Wakeling et al [2010] found cleft palate or bifid uvula in 7% of their patients with 11p15.5 methylation defects and in no patients with maternal UPD7.

Dental and oral abnormalities are rare. Microdontia, high-arched palate, and dental crowding secondary to the relative micrognathia and small mouth have been reported [Cullen & Wesley 1987, Kulkarni et al 1995, Orbak et al 2005, Wakeling et al 2010].

Poor oral hygiene in the presence of dental crowding can lead to increased risk for dental caries.

Genitourinary problems have been observed but are uncommon. The most common anomalies are hypospadias and cryptorchidism. Renal anomalies, including hydronephrosis, renal tubular acidosis, posterior urethral valves, and horseshoe kidney have been reported [Arai et al 1988, Ortiz et al 1991].

Neoplasia. Individuals with RSS do not appear to have a significantly increased incidence of neoplasia despite occasional reports of malignancies, including Wilms tumor, hepatocellular carcinoma, and craniopharyngioma [Draznin et al 1980, Chitayat et al 1988, Bruckheimer & Abrahamov 1993].

Genotype-Phenotype Correlations

Using methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes HpaII or NotI to measure the degree of methylation of H19, Bruce et al [2009] developed a scale of extreme H19 hypomethylation, moderate H19 hypomethylation, normal H19 methylation, and maternal UPD7 (normal H19 methylation). They determined that children with RSS with extreme H19 hypomethylation (i.e., ≤ -6 SD or <9% methylation) were more likely to have more severe skeletal manifestations (including radiohumeral dislocation, syndactyly, greater limb asymmetry, and scoliosis) than children with RSS with moderate hypomethylation and those with maternal UPD7.

A study by Wakeling et al [2010] compared clinical features of children with RSS caused by IC1 methylation defects to those with maternal UPD7. They found considerable overlap in the phenotype: fifth-finger clinodactyly and congenital anomalies were more frequent in children with IC1 hypomethylation than in those with maternal UPD7, whereas learning difficulties and speech disorders were more frequent in children with maternal UPD7 than in those with IC1 hypomethylation.

The low risk of malignancy is significant, given that at least some individuals with RSS have mutations in the imprinted region of chromosome 11p15.5 that have been associated with Wilms tumor, hepatoblastoma, and other abdominal tumors in individuals with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. The tumor risk, therefore, appears to be increased with mutations related to overgrowth, as opposed to growth retardation.


The prevalence is estimated to be one in 100,000 [Christoforidis et al 2005].

Differential Diagnosis

Intrauterine growth retardation and short stature. The differential diagnosis of Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS) includes any condition that can cause intrauterine growth retardation and short stature.

Chromosome abnormalities and deletion/duplication analyses. Because many conditions caused by a chromosome imbalance can be misdiagnosed as RSS, children with findings similar to those seen in RSS should have chromosome studies (preferably high-resolution chromosomal microarray, which by definition includes array comparative genomic hybridization and SNP microarrays) which have a higher detection rate than routine cytogenetic analysis.

Chromosome abnormalities to consider in the differential diagnosis of RSS include:

Disorders of DNA repair, including Fanconi anemia, Nijmegen breakage syndrome, and Bloom syndrome, are frequently associated with intrauterine growth retardation and short stature. In these conditions, additional clinical features, including microcephaly, skin sensitivity to sunlight, and limb anomalies, are usually evident.


  • One condition that has been confused with RSS is an X-linked disorder of short stature with skin hyperpigmentation. Partington [1986] described the first cases and referred to this as X-linked RSS. This condition may be difficult to distinguish from classic RSS in the absence of a positive family history.
  • The 3-M syndrome is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth retardation, distinctive facial features (relatively large head, frontal bossing, pointed and prominent chin, fleshy and upturned nose, full lips and eyebrows, and a hypoplastic midface), and radiologic abnormalities. Intelligence is normal. Final height is 5 to 6 SD below the mean. Characteristic radiologic findings are slender long bones, thin ribs, tall vertebral bodies that become foreshortened over time, spina bifida occulta, small pelvis, small iliac wings, and retarded bone age. Mutation of CUL7 is causative. Inheritance is autosomal recessive.
  • Children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) usually have intrauterine growth retardation, microcephaly, failure to thrive, and often triangular facies. For most children with fetal alcohol syndrome in utero exposure to ethanol can be documented and facial findings (short palpebral fissures, flat philtrum, and thin upper lip) are often distinctive.
  • IMAGe syndrome is characterized by intrauterine growth restriction, metaphyseal dysplasia, adrenal hypoplasia congenita, and genital abnormalities including cryptorchidism and micropenis. Head circumference is normal [Vilain et al 1999, Pedreira et al 2004]. IMAGe syndrome is caused by maternal transmission of a pathogenic variant in CDKN1C.
  • A skeletal survey should be performed to exclude a skeletal dysplasia that may mimic RSS.

Note: Bone age may be delayed in children with RSS; however, delayed bone age is a nonspecific finding frequently seen in children with intrauterine growth retardation from many etiologies.

Microcephaly. Individuals with RSS have a normal head circumference. When the head circumference is more than 3 SD below the mean, another etiology for growth retardation should be sought.


Evaluations Following Initial Diagnosis

To establish the extent of disease in an individual diagnosed with Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS), the following evaluations are recommended:

  • Assessment and plotting of growth curves. For European children, see Wollmann et al [1995]; for North American children, see the MAGIC Foundation.
  • Physical examination for evaluation of possible limb-size asymmetry and oral and craniofacial abnormalities
  • For most children with RSS, evaluation for growth hormone deficiency by standard methods
  • For children with diaphoresis, evaluation for hypoglycemia
  • For children suspected of having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), evaluation for esophagitis including barium swallow studies, pH probe, and endoscopy
  • Screening assessment of neurocognitive development, language, and muscle tone

Treatment of Manifestations

Growth. Children with any condition associated with body differences and/or short stature are often sensitive about body image. These factors can play a significant role in self-image, peer relationships, and socialization. Thus, psychological counseling is frequently helpful for children with RSS.

Human growth hormone therapy in children with intrauterine growth retardation of all causes has significantly improved growth and final height [Albanese & Stanhope 1997, Azcona et al 1998, Czernichow & Fjellestad-Paulsen 1998, Saenger 2002]. Specifically, children with RSS have benefited from growth hormone supplementation even in the absence of growth hormone deficiency [Albanese & Stanhope 1997], including significant growth acceleration and improved final height [Azcona et al 1998] and continued normal growth rate after the discontinuation of growth hormone therapy [Azcona & Stanhope 1999].

Such treatment is best undertaken in a center with experience in managing growth disorders.

One study demonstrated significant increase in height in children with RSS treated with growth hormone, but without a change in body or limb asymmetry [Rizzo et al 2001].

Children with RSS with UPD7 had more gain in height with growth hormone therapy compared to children with 11p15.5 epimutations possibly because children with 11p15.5 methylation abnormalities showed elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor II (product of IGF2); children with RSS with UPD7 had response characteristics similar to other children who were small for gestational age [Binder et al 2008].

A later study looking at both IGF1 and IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) levels revealed no correlation between changes in the levels of these proteins and growth velocity after treatment with growth hormone; however, the diagnosis of RSS was based solely on clinical presentation and no data regarding testing for 11p15 methylation defects or maternal UPD7 were reported [Beserra et al 2010].

In a recent long term outcome study of 26 children with RSS treated with growth hormone for a median period of 9.8 years, a significant response was noted with median height of -2.7 SD at the beginning of therapy and a median height of -1.3 SD at the conclusion of therapy [Toumba et al 2010].

Unfortunately it is difficult to interpret the results of many studies of children with RSS who have received growth hormone, given the known genetic heterogeneity of the disorder and lack of etiologic data included in these studies. Also, it will be important to look at the long-term effects of growth hormone therapy on children with RSS, especially with respect to influence on final adult height and any possible changes in orthopedic management for those individuals with limb-length asymmetry.

Growth hormone deficiency. Treatment with human growth hormone is necessary in the presence of documented growth hormone deficiency.

Skeletal abnormalities. Lower-limb length discrepancy exceeding 3 cm can lead to compensatory scoliosis and thus requires intervention. Initial treatment is use of a shoe lift. In older children, distraction osteogenesis or epiphysiodesis can be considered.


  • For infants with hypotonia, referral to an early-intervention program and physical therapist
  • For children with evidence of delay, referral for early intervention and speech and language therapy
  • For school-age children, working with the school system to address learning disabilities through appropriate neuropsychological testing and an individualized educational plan

Hypoglycemia should be treated in a standard manner with dietary supplementation, frequent feedings, and use of complex carbohydrates.

Gastrointestinal disorders should be aggressively managed.

  • Treatment of gastroesophageal reflux initially with positioning and thickened feeds is recommended along with use of acid blocking medications (preferably proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole or patoprazole) as needed. Surgical management with fundoplication may be necessary in more severe cases or in instances in which conservative measures are unsuccessful.
  • Feeding aversion can be addressed with therapy by a speech pathologist and/or occupational therapist.

Craniofacial anomalies. For those children with severe micrognathia or cleft palate, management by a multidisciplinary craniofacial team is recommended. Orthognathic surgery is rarely required.

Dental hygiene and dental crowding can be appropriately managed in a routine manner by pediatric dentists and orthodontists.

Genitourinary abnormalities

  • Referral of males with cryptorchidism to a urologist; surgery as required
  • Referral of males with micropenis to an endocrinologist; androgenic hormone therapy as indicated

Neoplasia. The risk for malignancies in individuals with RSS is low. Although body asymmetry may be present, it appears not to be hemihypertrophy, as seen in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome; therefore, routine serial abdominal and renal sonograms are not indicated for children with RSS.


The following are appropriate:

  • Monitoring of growth with special attention to growth velocity
  • In infancy and in older children with diaphoresis or poor appetite, monitoring of blood glucose concentration for hypoglycemia
  • At each well-child visit in early childhood, examination and measurement of limb-length discrepancy
  • Close monitoring of speech and language development

Evaluation of Relatives at Risk

See Genetic Counseling for issues related to testing of at-risk relatives for genetic counseling purposes.

Therapies Under Investigation

Search in the US and in Europe for information on clinical studies for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Note: There may not be clinical trials for this disorder.

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is the process of providing individuals and families with information on the nature, inheritance, and implications of genetic disorders to help them make informed medical and personal decisions. The following section deals with genetic risk assessment and the use of family history and genetic testing to clarify genetic status for family members. This section is not meant to address all personal, cultural, or ethical issues that individuals may face or to substitute for consultation with a genetics professional. —ED.

Mode of Inheritance

Russell-Silver syndrome (RSS) has multiple etiologies including: loss of paternal methylation at the H19-IGF2 imprinting center 1 (IC1) and maternal uniparental disomy for chromosome 7 (UPD7) (see Testing). Autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive inheritance is rare [Ounap et al 2004].

Risk to Family Members – Chromosome 11p15.5-Related RSS: Loss of Paternal Methylation at H19-IGF2 IC1

Parents of a proband

Sibs of a proband

  • When a proband has RSS as the result of an imprinting defect on chromosome 11p15.5, the risk to the sibs is usually not increased over that of the general population.
  • Father-to-child transmission of the imprinting defect on chromosome 11p15.5 and presumed germline mosaicism in unaffected fathers have been reported; thus, the risk to sibs may be increased in some families.

Offspring of a proband

  • The risk to offspring is probably low.
  • With the exception of one report of father-to-daughter transmission of the imprinting defect on chromosome 11p15.5 [Bartholdi et al 2009], no data to determine recurrence risks for probands with an imprinting defect on chromosome 11p15.5 are available.

Other family members of a proband. When a proband has RSS as the result of an imprinting defect on chromosome 11p15.5, the risk to other family members is likely not increased over that of the general population.

Risk to Family Members – Chromosome 7-Related RSS: Maternal Uniparental Disomy 7

Parents of a proband. When a proband has RSS as the result of maternal UPD7, both parents are predicted to be unaffected.

Sibs of a proband. When a proband has RSS as the result of maternal UPD7, the risk to the sibs is not increased over that of the general population.

Offspring of a proband. The risk to offspring is probably low. No data to determine recurrence risks for probands with maternal UPD7 are available.

Other family members of a proband. When a proband has RSS as the result of maternal UPD7, the risk to other family members is not increased over that of the general population.

Related Genetic Counseling Issues

Empiric risk. In the 45%-60% of individuals with an identified 11p15 hypomethylation or maternal UPD7 whose parents and sibs have normal stature, the risk for recurrence for sibs is not increased and is the same as for the general population.

DNA banking is the storage of DNA (typically extracted from white blood cells) for possible future use. Because it is likely that testing methodology and our understanding of genes, allelic variants, and diseases will improve in the future, consideration should be given to banking DNA of affected individuals.

Prenatal Testing

Because most occurrences of RSS are in a single family member only, most pregnancies are not identified to be at increased risk for the disorder. Therefore, prenatal diagnosis for RSS is usually not possible.

For pregnancies in which intrauterine growth retardation is identified by fetal ultrasonography, prenatal testing is possible for loss of paternal methylation at the H19-IGF2 IC1 and maternal UPD7, utilizing PCR molecular testing of the parents and fetal cells obtained by amniocentesis. Note: Intrauterine growth retardation often cannot be satisfactorily identified until the third trimester.


GeneReviews staff has selected the following disease-specific and/or umbrella support organizations and/or registries for the benefit of individuals with this disorder and their families. GeneReviews is not responsible for the information provided by other organizations. For information on selection criteria, click here.

  • Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)
    Phone: 301-251-4925; 888-205-2311
  • L'AISRS, Associazione Italiana Sindrome di Russell-Silver
  • L'ASBL ALICE: Association Libre d'Informations sur la Croissance des Enfants Silver Russell
  • L'Association Française des Familles touchées par le syndrome de Silver Russell (SSR)
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
  • Silver Russell Syndrome Global Alliance
  • Child Growth Foundation
    21 Malvern Drive
    West Midlands B76 1PZ
    United Kingdom
    Phone: 020 8995 0257
  • Human Growth Foundation (HGF)
    997 Glen Cove Avenue
    Suite 5
    Glen Head NY 11545
    Phone: 800-451-6434 (toll-free)
    Fax: 516-671-4055
  • Little People of America, Inc. (LPA)
    250 El Camino Real
    Suite 201
    Tustin CA 92780
    Phone: 888-572-2001 (toll-free); 714-368-3689
    Fax: 714-368-3367
  • MAGIC Foundation
    4200 Cantera Drive #106
    Warrenville IL 60555
    Phone: 800-362-4423 (Toll-free Parent Help Line); 630-836-8200
    Fax: 630-836-8181
  • Silver-Russell Support Group
    c/o Child Growth Foundation
    2 Mayfield Avenue
    Chiswick WA 1PW
    United Kingdom
    Phone: 020 8995 0257; 020 8994 7625
    Fax: 020 8995 9075

Molecular Genetics

Information in the Molecular Genetics and OMIM tables may differ from that elsewhere in the GeneReview: tables may contain more recent information. —ED.

Table A.

Russell-Silver Syndrome: Genes and Databases

GeneChromosome LocusProteinLocus-Specific DatabasesHGMDClinVar
H1911p15​.5UnknownH19 @ LOVDH19H19
IGF211p15​.5Insulin-like growth factor IILOVD - Growth Consortium (IGF2)IGF2IGF2
UnknownChromosome 7Unknown

Data are compiled from the following standard references: gene from HGNC; chromosome locus from OMIM; protein from UniProt. For a description of databases (Locus Specific, HGMD, ClinVar) to which links are provided, click here.

Table B.

OMIM Entries for Russell-Silver Syndrome (View All in OMIM)


Molecular Genetic Pathogenesis

Chromosome 11p15.5-related RSS. The importance of imprinted genes at chromosome 11p15.5 for fetal growth is known [DeChiara et al 1990, Fitzpatrick et al 2002, Eggermann 2009]. RSS is caused by epigenetic alterations at imprinted domain 1 [Gicquel et al 2005, Figure 1], while the overgrowth disorder Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome results from epigenetic alterations at both imprinted domains 1 and 2 (for comparison see Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome, Figure 1). The mechanism whereby differentially methylated domains at 11p15.5 affect gene transcription is not clearly understood. One model proposes that imprinting center 1 (IC1) binding of the zinc-finger CTCF protein controls chromatin conformation, which leads to activation or inactivation of chromatin domains [Li et al 2008, Demars et al 2010]. For RSS, domain 1 hypomethylation-induced changes in chromatin structure block transcriptional signals from cis enhancer sequences and/or from regulatory proteins, thus turning off IGF2 and allowing biallelic expression of H19. Studies related to H19-IGF2 and IC1 as causal in RSS include Obermann et al [2004], Gicquel et al [2005], Schönherr et al [2007], and Turner et al [2010].

  • H19 is an imprinted maternally expressed transcript (non-protein coding) RNA of 2322 nucleotides. Imprinting of H19 is regulated by IC1 domain (Figure 1).
  • IGF2 is an imprinted paternally expressed transcript that encodes a member of the insulin family of polypeptide growth factors that is involved in development and growth. NM_000612.4, the most predominant transcript, encodes the 180-amino acid insulin-like growth factor II isoform 1 (NP_000603.1).

Chromosome 7-related RSS. The specific genetic loci responsible for UPD7 imprinting have not yet been identified; however, given the cases reported with maternal UPD of the long arm of chromosome 7 (7q), it is likely that the genes of interest are on 7q [Eggermann 2008]. Hannula et al [2001] reported a patient with maternal UPD of 7q31-qter.


Published Guidelines / Consensus Statements

  • American College of Medical Genetics Statement on diagnostic testing for uniparental disomy. Available online. 2001. Accessed 1-14-19.

Literature Cited

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Chapter Notes

Revision History

  • 2 June 2011 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 9 March 2007 (hs) Revision: methylation analysis for H19 clinically available
  • 7 September 2006 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 5 March 2004 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 2 November 2001 (me) Review posted live
  • February 2001 (hs) Original submission
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