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Clin Genet. 1998 Mar;53(3):155-63.

Holoprosencephaly: from Homer to Hedgehog.

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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, USA.


Holoprosencephaly (HPE), a common developmental defect affecting the forebrain and face, is etiologically heterogeneous and exhibits wide phenotypic variation. Graded degrees of severity of the brain malformation are also reflected in the highly variable craniofacial malformations associated with HPE. In addition, individuals with microforms of HPE, who usually have normal cognition and normal brain imaging, are at risk for having children with HPE. Some obligate carriers for HPE may not have any phenotypic abnormalities. Recurrent chromosomal rearrangements in individuals with HPE suggest loci containing genes important for brain development, and abnormalities in these genes may result in HPE. Recently, Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) was the first gene identified as causing HPE in humans. Proper function of SHH depends on cholesterol modification. Other candidate genes that may be involved in HPE include components of the SHH pathway, elements involved in cholesterol metabolism, and genes expressed in the developing forebrain.

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