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Multisite neural tube closure in humans.

  • Van Allen, M I
Published Article
Birth defects original article series
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1996
PMID: 9125329


We present evidence for multisite NT closure in humans with representative examples of types of NTDs that would be expected if NT closure in humans is similar to experimental mice models. We determine that the majority of NTDs can be classified by the multisite closure model. Further evidence for multisite closure of the NT is apparent in previous epidemiological studies, recognized monogenic disorders, and environmental and teratogenic exposures. Previous reliance on the single-site closure model has resulted in grouping of anomalies, obscuring evidence for multisite NT closure, etiological heterogeneity, varying recurrence risks, and site-specific effects of environmental factors. The NTDs have been previously referred to as being multifactorial, due to multiple genes and environmental factors. Etiological heterogeneity has been demonstrated previously as well. Classification of NTDs by closure site will be beneficial in better defining etiologies and environmental susceptibilities. Similarly, it is apparent to us that genetic variations in closure sequence, rate, and location are most likely monogenic and result in affected embryos being more susceptible to specific environmental factors, such as the effect of folic acid deficiency. Individual closure sites are most likely under the control of specific embryonically expressed genes, whose monogenic nature may not be apparent postnatally. For the disorders such as Meckel-Gruber syndrome and Walker-Warburg syndrome, the monogenic etiology for NTDs in affected individuals is apparent because of associated malformations. There are three important implications of this study: The first is that monogenic mouse models will be helpful in investigating the pathogenesis of NTDs in humans. The homologies between the mouse and human genome may allow linkage studies to be done in some families who have recurrence of NTDs. Second, in order to have useful results from studies of NTDs, NT anomalies need to be accurately described, either by the classical nomenclature (eg, meroacranium) or by referring to the corresponding closure site involvement (eg, closure 2 defect). Special attention needs to be addressed to those NTDs that do not appear to fit into a discrete closure site (eg, midthoracic spina bifida cystica) or laterally displaced NTDs, since they may be due to other etiologies. With improved nutrition, particularly folic acid treatment, specific etiologies for the remaining NTDs may become more apparent. Finally, recurrence risks for NTDs may vary between families based on the closure site affected, and whether or not associated anomalies are present.

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