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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):2915-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019645108. Epub 2011 Jan 31.

Rare copy number variations in congenital heart disease patients identify unique genes in left-right patterning.

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Department of Genetics, The Howard Hughes Medical Institute,Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Dominant human genetic diseases that impair reproductive fitness and have high locus heterogeneity constitute a problem for gene discovery because the usual criterion of finding more mutations in specific genes than expected by chance may require extremely large populations. Heterotaxy (Htx), a congenital heart disease resulting from abnormalities in left-right (LR) body patterning, has features suggesting that many cases fall into this category. In this setting, appropriate model systems may provide a means to support implication of specific genes. By high-resolution genotyping of 262 Htx subjects and 991 controls, we identify a twofold excess of subjects with rare genic copy number variations in Htx (14.5% vs. 7.4%, P = 1.5 × 10(-4)). Although 7 of 45 Htx copy number variations were large chromosomal abnormalities, 38 smaller copy number variations altered a total of 61 genes, 22 of which had Xenopus orthologs. In situ hybridization identified 7 of these 22 genes with expression in the ciliated LR organizer (gastrocoel roof plate), a marked enrichment compared with 40 of 845 previously studied genes (sevenfold enrichment, P < 10(-6)). Morpholino knockdown in Xenopus of Htx candidates demonstrated that five (NEK2, ROCK2, TGFBR2, GALNT11, and NUP188) strongly disrupted both morphological LR development and expression of pitx2, a molecular marker of LR patterning. These effects were specific, because 0 of 13 control genes from rare Htx or control copy number variations produced significant LR abnormalities (P = 0.001). These findings identify genes not previously implicated in LR patterning.

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