Fuhrmann syndrome and the Al-Awadi/Raas-Rothschild/Schinzel phocomelia syndrome are considered to be distinct limb-malformation disorders characterized by various degrees of limb aplasia/hypoplasia and joint dysplasia in humans. In families with these syndromes, we found homozygous missense mutations in the dorsoventral-patterning gene WNT7A and confirmed their functional significance in retroviral-mediated transfection of chicken mesenchyme cell cultures and developing limbs. The results suggest that a partial loss of WNT7A function causes Fuhrmann syndrome (and a phenotype similar to mouse Wnt7a knockout), whereas the more-severe limb truncation phenotypes observed in Al-Awadi/Raas-Rothschild/Schinzel phocomelia syndrome result from null mutations (and cause a phenotype similar to mouse Shh knockout). These findings illustrate the specific and conserved importance of WNT7A in multiple aspects of vertebrate limb development.
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