The patients have single short fingers (metacarpals) and toes (metatarsals) and can be restricted in growth due to a shortened skeleton. This hereditary disease is called brachydactyly type E (Greek for short fingers). Three years ago Dr. Philipp G. Maass from the research group of Professor Friedrich C. Luft at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint cooperation between the Charit Medical Faculty and the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, has discovered an epigenetic mechanism, which, when dysregulated, causes this condition. Now, together with Dr. Sylvia Bhring (ECRC) he was able to show how this epigenetic regulator functions and influences the development of the skeleton and the extremities. Also, he shed light on a new principle of gene regulation (Journal of Clinical Investigation, doi: 10.1172/JCI65508)*.
The gene causing brachydactyly type E (BDE) is PTHLH (the abbreviation stands for parathyroid hormone like hormone), and belongs to a group of genes that regulate the development of cartilage and determine subsequent skeletal structure. The researchers investigated two families with BDE. The patients exhibit shortened metacarpals, involved in forming the hands and feet, but had no other clinical symptoms.
Up to now, more than ten different forms of brachydactyly are known. The features of the hands and feet are variable depending upon which type of brachydactyly a patient has. Sometimes, the brachydactyly can be associated with hypertension, mental retardation, or other medical problems.
Several new findings
The gene PTHLH is located on chromosome 12, one of the 46 chromosomes of the human genome. The gene exerts considerably influence on cartilage during development and early life. However, little was known about the regulation of this gene. Now, Dr. Maass, Dr. Bhring and Professor Luft have detected an epigenetic regulator for the gene PTHLH on chromoso
|Contact: Bachtler, Barbara|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres