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Keywords:

  • facial asymmetry;
  • genotype-phenotype correlations;
  • morphometrics;
  • NSCL/P; 3D morphology

Abstract

Family relatives of children with nonsyndromic cleft lip with or without cleft palate (NSCL/P) who presumably carry a genetic risk yet do not manifest overt oral clefts, often present with distinct facial morphology of unknown genetic etiology. This study investigates distinct facial morphology among unaffected relatives and examines whether candidate genes previously associated with overt NSCL/P and left–right body patterning are correlated with such facial morphology. Cases were unaffected relatives of individuals with NSCL/P (n = 188) and controls (n = 194) were individuals without family history of NSCL/P. Cases and controls were genotyped for 20 SNPs across 13 candidate genes for NSCL/P (PAX7, ABCA4-ARHGAP29, IRF6, MSX1, PITX2, 8q24, FOXE1, TGFB3 and MAFB) and left–right body patterning (LEFTY1, LEFTY2, ISL1 and SNAI1). Facial shape and asymmetry phenotypes were obtained via principal component analyses and Procrustes analysis of variance from 32 coordinate landmarks, digitized on 3D facial images. Case–control comparisons of phenotypes obtained were performed via multivariate regression adjusting for age and gender. Phenotypes that differed significantly (P < 0.05) between cases and controls were regressed on the SNPs one at a time. Cases had significantly (P < 0.05) more profile concavity with upper face retrusion, upturned noses with obtuse nasolabial angles, more protrusive chins, increased lower facial heights, thinner and more retrusive lips and more protrusive foreheads. Furthermore, cases showed significantly more directional asymmetry compared to controls. Several of these phenotypes were significantly associated with genetic variants (P < 0.05). Facial height and width were associated with SNAI1. Midface antero-posterior (AP) projection was associated with LEFTY1. The AP position of the chin was related to SNAI1, IRF6, MSX1 and MAFB. The AP position of the forehead and the width of the mouth were associated with ABCA4–ARHGAP29 and MAFB. Lastly, facial asymmetry was related to LEFTY1, LEFTY2 and SNAI1. This study demonstrates that, genes underlying lip and palate formation and left–right patterning also contribute to facial features characteristic of the NSCL/P spectrum.