Human neural tube defects: Genetic causes and prevention

Patrizia de Marco, Elisa Merello, Armando Cama, Zoha Kibar, Valeria Capra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural tube defects (NTDs) are severe congenital malformations affecting 1-2 in 1,000 live births, whose etiology is multifactorial, involving environmental and genetic factors. NTDs arise as consequence of the failure of fusion of the neural tube early during embryogenesis. NTDs' pathogenesis has been linked to genes involved in folate metabolism, consistent with an epidemiologic evidence that 70% of NTDs can be prevented by maternal periconceptional supplementation. However, polymorphisms in such genes are not linked in all populations, suggesting that other genetic factors and environmental factors could be involved. Animal models have provided crucial mechanistic information and possible candidate genes to explain susceptibility to NTDs. A crucial role has been assigned to the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway, a highly conserved, non-canonical Wnt-frizzled-dishevelled signaling cascade that plays a key role in establishing and maintaining polarity in the plane of the epithelium and in the process of convergent extension during gastrulation and neurulation in vertebrates. The Loop-tail (Lp) mouse that develops craniorachischisis carry missense mutations in the PCP core gene Vangl2, that is the mammalian homolog of the Drosophila Strabismus/Van gogh (Stbm/Vang). The presence of mutations in human VANGL1 and VANGL2 genes encourages us to extend the investigation to other PCP genes that, with VANGL, play an essential role in neurulation during development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-268
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Folate
  • Inositol
  • Neural tube defects
  • Planar cell polarity
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Human neural tube defects: Genetic causes and prevention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this