On the nosology and pathogenesis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome: Genotype-phenotype correlation analysis of 80 patients and literature review

Marcella Zollino, Marina Murdolo, Giuseppe Marangi, Vanna Pecile, Cinzia Galasso, Laura Mazzanti, Giovanni Neri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on genotype-phenotype correlation analysis of 80 Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS) patients, as well as on review of relevant literature, we add further insights to the following aspects of WHS: (1) clinical delineation and phenotypic categories; (2) characterization of the basic genomic defect, mechanisms of origin and familiarity; (3) identification of prognostic factors for mental retardation; (4) chromosome mapping of the distinctive clinical signs, in an effort to identify pathogenic genes. Clinically, we consider that minimal diagnostic criteria for WHS, defining a "core" phenotype, are typical facial appearance, mental retardation, growth delay and seizures (or EEG anomalies). Three different categories of the WHS phenotype were defined, generally correlating with the extent of the 4p deletion. The first one comprises a small deletion not exceeding 3.5 Mb, that is usually associated with a mild phenotype, lacking major malformations. This category is likely under-diagnosed. The second and by far the more frequent category is identified by large deletions, averaging between 5 and 18 Mb, and causes the widely recognizable WHS phenotype. The third clinical category results from a very large deletion exceeding 22-25Mb causing a severe phenotype, that can hardly be defined as typical WHS. Genetically, de novo chromosome abnormalities in WHS include pure deletions but also complex rearrangements, mainly unbalanced translocations. With the exception of t(4p;8p), WHS-associated chromosome abnormalities are neither mediated by segmental duplications, nor associated with a parental inversion polymorphism on 4p16.3. Factors involved in prediction of prognosis include the extent of the deletion, the occurrence of complex chromosome anomalies, and the severity of seizures. We found that the core phenotype maps within the terminal 1.9 Mb region of chromosome 4p. Therefore, WHSCR-2 should be considered the critical region for this condition. We also confirmed that the pathogenesis of WHS is multigenic. Specific and independent chromosome regions were characterized for growth delay and seizures, as well as for the additional clinical signs that characterize this condition. With the exception of parental balanced translocations, familial recurrence is uncommon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-269
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2008


  • 4p deletion
  • WHS
  • Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics

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