A gene previously linked to too much growth in patients has now also been linked to growth restriction. Different forms of the gene can lead to very different conditions, according to research published today in the journal Nature Genetics.
IMAGe* syndrome is a rare developmental disorder which can affect foetal growth, resulting in smaller than average body and organ size. Without treatment, the disorder can have potentially life-threatening consequences from adrenal gland failure.
The condition was first identified twenty years ago by Eric Vilain, then a researcher in France. Now, Professor Vilain and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, together with researchers at the UCL Institute of Child Health in the UK, have identified the disorder as being caused by a particular mutation of a gene known as CDKN1C, found on chromosome 11. They made their discovery after analysing DNA samples from an Argentinian family affected by IMAGe syndrome, together with existing samples from patients collected over the past two decades.
Scientists have known for some time now that CDKN1C plays an important role in regulating cell growth. Mutations of this gene have been previously associated with an 'overgrowth' syndrome called Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which causes large body parts and large organs and carries an increased risk of tumours. The link with IMAGe is the first time that the gene has been associated with growth restriction.
"We discovered a mutation in chromosome 11 that consistently appeared in every family member affected by IMAGe Syndrome," explains Professor Vilain. "We were a little surprised, though, because the mutation was located on a gene previously recognised as causing Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Finding dual functions in one molecule is an unusual biological phenomenon. These two diseases are polar opposites of each other.
"The results are particularly special for me as we have
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