Molecular genetics of heterotaxy syndromes

John W. Belmont, Bhagyalaxmi Mohapatra, Jeffrey A. Towbin, Stephanie M. Ware

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

67 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Heterotaxy is a complex set of birth defects in which the normal concordance of asymmetric thoracic and abdominal organs is disturbed. In this review the authors summarize recent research on the etiology of heterotaxy syndromes. Improved understanding of the genetic control of left-right patterning in the early embryo is leading to the identification of candidate genes that may be mutated in heterotaxy patients, and epidemiologic studies are helping to define nongenetic mechanisms of embryopathy. Recent findings: Several genes have now been implicated in heterotaxy and related isolated congenital heart malformations. These studies indicate that heterotaxy can be caused by single gene mutations. They also demonstrate that there is probably extensive locus heterogeneity. Heterotaxy may be caused by teratogenic exposures, especially maternal diabetes. Isolated congenital heart defects resulting from isomerisms and disturbed looping may be caused by mutations in genes that control early left-right patterning and the earliest steps in cardiogenesis. Genes currently implicated in human heterotaxy include ZIC3, LEFTYA, CRYPTIC, and ACVR2B. Roles for NKX2.5 and CRELDA are suggested by recent case reports. Summary: Active research on the etiology of heterotaxy is leading to a reformulation of the likely etiologies. Its complex inheritance likely results from a mix of teratogenic and single gene disorders with variable expression and incomplete penetrance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-220
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Heterotaxy
  • Left-right patterning
  • Nodal
  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • ZIC3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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