Members of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-β family of cell-signaling molecules have been implicated recently in mammalian left-right (LR) axis development, the process by which vertebrates lateralize unpaired organs (e.g., heart, stomach, and spleen). Two family members, Lefty1 and Lefty2, are expressed exclusively on the left side of the mouse embryo by 8.0 days post coitum. This asymmetry is lost or reversed in two murine models of abnormal LR-axis specification, inversus viscerum (iv) and inversion of embryonic turning (inv). Furthermore, mice homozygous for a Lefty1 null allele manifest LR malformations and misexpress Lefty2. We hypothesized that Lefty mutations may be associated with human LR-axis malformations. We now report characterization of two Lefty homologues, LEFTY A and LEFTY B, separated by ~50 kb on chromosome 1q42. Each comprises four exons spliced at identical positions. LEFTY A is identical to ebaf, a cDNA previously identified in a search for genes expressed in human endometrium. The deduced amino acid sequences of LEFTY A and LEFTY B are more similar to each other than to Lefty1 or Lefty2. Analysis of 126 human cases of LRaxis malformations showed one nonsense and one missense mutation in LEFTY A. Both mutations lie in the cysteine-knot region of the protein LEFTY A, and the phenotype of affected individuals is very similar to that typically seen in Lefty1-1- mice with LR- axis malformations.
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