Duplication of the EFNB1 gene in familial hypertelorism: imbalance in ephrin-B1 expression and abnormal phenotypes in humans and mice.
Babbs C., Stewart HS., Williams LJ., Connell L., Goriely A., Twigg SR., Smith K., Lester T., Wilkie AO.
Familial hypertelorism, characterized by widely spaced eyes, classically shows autosomal dominant inheritance (Teebi type), but some pedigrees are compatible with X-linkage. No mechanism has been described previously, but clinical similarity has been noted to craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), which is caused by mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene. Here we report a family in which females in three generations presented with hypertelorism, but lacked either craniosynostosis or a grooved nasal tip, excluding CFNS. DNA sequencing of EFNB1 was normal, but further analysis revealed a duplication of 937 kb including EFNB1 and two flanking genes: PJA1 and STARD8. We found that the X chromosome bearing the duplication produces ∼1.6-fold more EFNB1 transcript than the normal X chromosome and propose that, in the context of X-inactivation, this difference in expression level of EFNB1 results in abnormal cell sorting leading to hypertelorism. To support this hypothesis, we provide evidence from a mouse model carrying a targeted human EFNB1 cDNA, that abnormal cell sorting occurs in the cranial region. Hence, we propose that X-linked cases resembling Teebi hypertelorism may have a similar mechanism to CFNS, and that cellular mosaicism for different levels of ephrin-B1 (as well as simple presence/absence) leads to craniofacial abnormalities.