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Am J Hum Genet. 2003 Jun;72(6):1470-8. Epub 2003 May 8.

Mutations in the transcription factor gene SOX18 underlie recessive and dominant forms of hypotrichosis-lymphedema-telangiectasia.

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Laboratory of Human Molecular Genetics, Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology and Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


Hereditary lymphedema is a developmental disorder characterized by chronic swelling of the extremities due to dysfunction of the lymphatic vessels. Two responsible genes have been identified: the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR3) gene, implicated in congenital lymphedema, or Milroy disease, and the forkhead-related transcription factor gene FOXC2, causing lymphedema-distichiasis. We describe three families with an unusual association of hypotrichosis, lymphedema, and telangiectasia. Using microsatellite analysis, we first excluded both VEGFR3 and FOXC2 as causative genes; we then considered the murine ragged phenotype, caused by mutations in the Sox18 transcription factor, as a likely counterpart to the human disease, because it presents a combination of hair and cardiovascular anomalies, including symptoms of lymphatic dysfunction. Two of the families were consanguineous; in affected members of these families, we identified homozygous missense mutations in the SOX18 gene, located in 20q13. The two amino acid substitutions, W95R and A104P, affect conserved residues in the first alpha helix of the DNA-binding domain of the transcription factor. In the third family, the parents were nonconsanguineous, and both the affected child and his brother, who died in utero with hydrops fetalis, showed a heterozygous nonsense mutation that truncates the SOX18 protein in its transactivation domain; this substitution was not found in genomic DNA from either parent and hence constitutes a de novo germline mutation. Thus, we show that SOX18 mutations in humans cause both recessive and dominant hypotrichosis-lymphedema-telangiectasia, suggesting that, in addition to its established role in hair and blood vessel development, the SOX18 transcription factor plays a role in the development and/or maintenance of lymphatic vessels.

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