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Researchers Discover Gene For Rare Skin Disorder

yver, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicines Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and of Molecular and Human Genetics and the senior author of the paper. Mental retardation is seen in about fifteen percent of patients with Goltz syndrome.

Because 90 percent of Goltz syndrome cases are seen in females, the disorder was believed to be caused by a gene on the X chromosome. After analyzing the genes of two girls with Goltz syndrome, the researchers found that both patients were missing a portion of the X chromosome where seven genes are located. Of the missing seven, the researchers learned that Goltz syndrome resulted from an absence of the PORCN gene, said Dr. Van den Veyver.

The PORCN gene is active in the embryo and fetus, creating proteins important in the development of the skin, skeleton, and eyes — all affected in the disorder.

Researchers then did genetic analyses of 15 girls with Goltz syndrome and found that the PORCN gene was affected in 10 of them.

Although the PORCN gene has been studied in mice and fruit flies, very little is known about the genes function in humans, said Dr. Van den Veyver. The mouse and Drosophila porcupine proteins are known to be important for the secretion of Wnt proteins from the cells that produce them. Wnt proteins are involved in early development. They interact with other proteins within the cell to begin the complex chain of events leading to the development and differentiation of organ systems in early life.

This discovery may lead to greater understanding of the function of Wnt proteins in humans, said Dr. Van den Veyver.

By identifying the genetic defect which causes Goltz syndrome, it may be possible to understand more of the processes critical for skin, eye and bone development, she said.

The findings are important because they offer insight into a developmental disorder that was previously little understood, said Ljubisa Vitkovic, M.D., of NICHDs Menta
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