Specific congenital heart defects in RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome: Postulated involvement of the Sonic Hedgehog pathway in syndromes with postaxial polydactyly or heterotaxia




RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome is an autosomal recessive syndrome due to an inborn error of cholesterol metabolism and is characterized by developmental delay, facial anomalies, hypospadias, congenital heart defect (CHD), postaxial polydactyly, and 2–3 toe syndactyly. CHD is found in half of the propositi, and a specific association with atrioventricular canal defect (AVCD) and anomalous pulmonary venous return has been demonstrated.


We report on an additional patient with RSH/SLOS presenting with complete AVCD and anomalous pulmonary venous return, and discuss the possible relationship of the Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) pathway as causative factor of these CHDs and those in heterotaxia patients with postaxial polydactyly syndromes.


Anatomic similarities between heterotaxia and CHDs of several syndromes with postaxial polydactyly have been noted previously, considering the frequent association of AVCD with common atrium in these conditions. It is known that both CHDs of heterotaxia and postaxial polydactyly can be related to abnormalities of the SHH pathway. Cholesterol has a critical role in the formation of normally active hedgehog proteins. It could be hypothesized that specific types of CHDs in RSH/SLOS can be caused by modifications of the SHH protein related to the defect of cholesterol biosynthesis.


The specific association of AVCD and anomalous pulmonary venous return in patients with RSH/SLOS and the finding of AVCD ± common atrium in several syndromes with polydactyly leads to the hypothesis that heterotaxia due to SHH anomalies could be involved in a large spectrum of conditions. Perturbations in different components of the SHH pathway could lead to several developmental errors presenting with partially overlapping clinical manifestations. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 67149–153, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.