• Williams syndrome;
  • visual–spatial construction;
  • social behavior;
  • GTF2IRD1;
  • GTF2I


Genetic contributions to human cognition and behavior are clear but difficult to define. Williams syndrome (WS) provides a unique model for relating single genes to visual–spatial cognition and social behavior. We defined a ∼1.5 Mb region of ∼25 genes deleted in >98% of typical WS and then rare small deletions, showing that visual–spatial construction (VSC) in WS was associated with the genes GTF2IRD1 and GTF2I. To distinguish the roles of GTF2IRD1 and GTF2I in VSC and social behavior, we utilized multiple genomic methods (custom high resolution oligonucleotide microarray, multicolor FISH and somatic cell hybrids analyzed by PCR) to identify individuals deleted for either gene but not both. We analyzed genetic, cognitive and social behavior in a unique individual with WS features (heart defects, small size, facies), but with an atypical deletion of a set of genes that includes GTF2IRD1, but not GTF2I. The centromeric breakpoint localized to the region 72.32–72.38 Mb and the telomeric breakpoint to 72.66 Mb, 10 kb downstream of GTF2IRD1. Cognitive testing (WPPSI-R, K-BIT, and PLS-3) demonstrated striking deficits in VSC (Block Design, Object Assembly) but overall performance 1.5–3 SD above WS means. We have now integrated the genetic, clinical and cognitive data with previous reports of social behavior in this subject. These results combine with previous data from small deletions to suggest the gene GTF2IRD1 is associated with WS facies and VSC, and that GTF2I may contribute to WS social behaviors including increased gaze and attention to strangers. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.