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Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Jan 15;22(2):300-12. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds429. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

22q11 Gene dosage establishes an adaptive range for sonic hedgehog and retinoic acid signaling during early development.

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GW Institute for Neuroscience and Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington DC, USA.


We asked whether key morphogenetic signaling pathways interact with 22q11 gene dosage to modulate the severity of cranial or cardiac anomalies in DiGeorge/22q1 deletion syndrome (22q11DS). Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and retinoic acid (RA) signaling is altered in the brain and heart-clinically significant 22q11DS phenotypic sites-in LgDel mouse embryos, an established 22q11DS model. LgDel embryos treated with cyclopamine, an Shh inhibitor, or carrying mutations in Gli3(Xtj), an Shh-signaling effector, have morphogenetic anomalies that are either not seen, or seen at significantly lower frequencies in control or single-mutant embryos. Similarly, RA exposure or genetic loss of RA function via heterozygous mutation of the RA synthetic enzyme Raldh2 induces novel cranial anomalies and enhances cardiovascular phenotypes in LgDel but not other genotypes. These changes are not seen in heterozygous Tbx1 mutant embryos-a 22q11 gene thought to explain much of 22q11DS pathogenesis-in which Shh or RA signaling has been similarly modified. Our results suggest that full dosage of 22q11 genes beyond Tbx1 establish an adaptive range for morphogenetic signaling via Shh and RA. When this adaptive range is constricted by diminished dosage of 22q11 genes, embryos are sensitized to otherwise benign changes in Shh and RA signaling. Such sensitization, in the face of environmental or genetic factors that modify Shh or RA signaling, may explain variability in 22q11DS morphogenetic phenotypes.

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