Congenital Heart Defect - Causes - Genetics


Most of the known causes of congenital heart disease are sporadic genetic changes, either focal mutations or deletion or addition of segments of DNA. Large chromosomal abnormalities such as trisomies 21, 13, and 18 cause about 5-8% of cases of CHD, with trisomy 21 being the most common genetic cause. Small chromosomal abnormalities also frequently lead to congenital heart disease, and examples include microdeletion of the long arm of chromosome 22 (22q11, DiGeorge syndrome), the long arm of chromosome 1 (1q21), the short arm of chromosome 8 (8p23) and many other, less recurrent regions of the genome, as shown by high resolution genome-wide screening (Array comparative genomic hybridization).

The genes regulating the complex developmental sequence have only been partly elucidated. Some genes are associated with specific defects. A number of genes have been associated with cardiac manifestations. Mutations of a heart muscle protein, α-myosin heavy chain (MYH6) are associated with atrial septal defects. Several proteins that interact with MYH6 are also associated with cardiac defects. The transcription factor GATA4 forms a complex with the TBX5 which interacts with MYH6. Another factor, the homeobox (developmental) gene, NKX2-5 also interacts with MYH6. Mutations of all these proteins are associated with both atrial and ventricular septal defects; In addition, NKX2-5 is associated with defects in the electrical conduction of the heart and TBX5 is related to the Holt-Oram syndrome which includes electrical conduction defects and abnormalities of the upper limb. Another T-box gene, TBX1, is involved in velo-cardio-facial syndrome DiGeorge syndrome, the most common deletion which has extensive symptoms including defects of the cardiac outflow tract including tetralogy of Fallot.

Examples of gene products and associated features
Locus 14q11.2-q13 8p23.1-p22 5q34 12q24.1 22q11.2
Syndrome Holt-Oram DiGeorge
Atrial septal defects
Ventricular septal defects
Electrical conduction abnormalities
Outflow tract abnormalities
Non-cardiac manifestations Upper limb abnormalities Small or absent thymus
Small or absent parathyroids
Facial abnormalities

The notch signaling pathway, a regulatory mechanism for cell growth and differentiation, plays broad roles in several aspects of cardiac development. Notch elements are involved in determination of the right and left sides of the body plan, so the directional folding of the heart tube can be impacted. Notch signaling is involved early in the formation of the endocardial cushions and continues to be active as the develop into the septa and valves. It is also involved in the development of the ventricular wall and the connection of the outflow tract to the great vessels. Mutations in the gene for one of the notch ligands, Jagged1, are identified in the majority of examined cases of arteriohepatic dysplasia (Alagille syndrome), characterized by defects of the great vessels (pulmonary artery stenosis), heart (tetralogy of Fallot in 13% of cases), liver, eyes, face, and bones. Though less than 1% of all cases, where no defects are found in the Jagged1 gene, defects are found in Notch2 gene. In 10% of cases, no mutation is found in either gene. For another member of the gene family, mutations in the Notch1 gene are associated with bicuspid aortic valve, a valve with two leaflets instead of three. Notch1 is also associated with calcification of the aortic valve, the third most common cause of heart disease in adults.

Mutation of a cell regulatory mechanism, the Ras/MAPK pathway are responsible for a variety of syndromes, including Noonan syndrome, LEOPARD syndrome, Costello syndrome and cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome in which there is cardiac involvement. While the conditions listed are known genetic causes, there are likely many other genes which are more subtle. It is known that the risk for congenital heart defects is higher when there is a close relative with one.

Read more about this topic:  Congenital Heart Defect, Causes

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