Nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate (CLP) is among the most common human birth defects. Transmission patterns suggest that the causes are “multifactorial” combinations of genetic and nongenetic factors, mostly distinct from those causing cleft secondary palate (CP). The major etiological factors are largely unknown, and the embryological mechanisms are not well understood. In contrast to CP or neural tube defects (NTD), CLP is uncommon in mouse mutants. Fourteen known mutants or strains express CLP, often as part of a severe syndrome, whereas nonsyndromic CLP is found in two conditional mutants and in two multifactorial models based on a hypomorphic variant with an epigenetic factor. This pattern suggests that human nonsyndromic CLP is likely caused by regulatory and hypomorphic gene variants, and may also involve epigenetics. The developmental pathogenic mechanism varies among mutants and includes deficiencies of growth of the medial, lateral or maxillary facial prominences, defects in the fusion process itself, and shifted midline position of the medial prominences. Several CLP mutants also have NTD, suggesting potential genetic overlap of the traits in humans. The mutants may reflect two interacting sets of genetic signaling pathways: Bmp4, Bmpr1a, Sp8, and Wnt9b may be in one set, and Tcfap2a and Sox11 may be in another. Combining the results of chromosomal linkage studies of unidentified human CLP genes with insights from the mouse models, the following previously unexamined genes are identified as strong candidate genes for causative roles in human nonsyndromic CLP: BMP4, BMPR1B, TFAP2A, SOX4, WNT9B, WNT3, and SP8. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.