Cleft palate (CP) is one of the most commonly occurring craniofacial birth defects in humans. In order to study cleft palate in a naturally occurring model system, we utilized the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (NSDTR) dog breed. Micro-computed tomography analysis of CP NSDTR craniofacial structures revealed that these dogs exhibit defects similar to those observed in a recognizable subgroup of humans with CP: Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS). We refer to this phenotype in NSDTRs as CP1. Individuals with PRS have a triad of birth defects: shortened mandible, posteriorly placed tongue, and cleft palate. A genome-wide association study in 14 CP NSDTRs and 72 unaffected NSDTRs identified a significantly associated region on canine chromosome 14 (24.2 Mb-29.3 Mb; praw = 4.64×10-15). Sequencing of two regional candidate homeobox genes in NSDTRs, distal-less homeobox 5 (DLX5) and distal-less homeobox 6 (DLX6), identified a 2.1 kb LINE-1 insertion within DLX6 in CP1 NSDTRs. The LINE-1 insertion is predicted to insert a premature stop codon within the homeodomain of DLX6. This prompted the sequencing of DLX5 and DLX6 in a human cohort with CP, where a missense mutation within the highly conserved DLX5 homeobox of a patient with PRS was identified. This suggests the involvement of DLX5 in the development of PRS. These results demonstrate the power of the canine animal model as a genetically tractable approach to understanding naturally occurring craniofacial birth defects in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Cancer Research