• polysplenia;
  • asplenia;
  • heterotaxy;
  • Mendelian inheritance;
  • neural tube defect;
  • left-right asymmetry


Disturbances of the normal asymmetric placement of organs, such as polysplenia or situs inversus, have been defined traditionally as laterality defects. However, there is compelling evidence from vertebrate models and human birth defects to hypothesize that defects of the midline, isolated congenital heart defects, and laterality defects are etiologically related. We present the clinical characteristics of three families that exhibit a variety of midline defects and isolated heart defects in addition to laterality defects. These observations suggest that the phenotypic consequences of mutations causing laterality defects include defects of the midline as well as isolated heart defects. To further explore the relationship between midline, heart, and laterality defects, it is imperative that detailed phenotyping of individuals and families with laterality defects be done and a classification system created to facilitate identification of genes causing human laterality disorders. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.