Applications of molecular genetics to the understanding of congenital ocular motility disorders

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Apr;956:55-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb02808.x.


The congenital fibrosis syndromes (CFS), including congenital fibrosis of the extraocular muscles (CFEOM) and Duane syndrome (DS), are rare congenital strabismus syndromes that present with nonprogressive restrictive ophthalmoplegia with or without ptosis. Although historically believed to result from primary extraocular muscle (EOM) fibrosis, our laboratory's work is based on the hypothesis that these disorders result from distinct, but analogous, developmental defects of the oculomotor (nIII), trochlear (nIV), and abducens (nVI) nuclei. We have defined three inherited CFEOM phenotypes (CFEOM1-3) and have mapped each phenotype to a distinct genetic locus (FEOM1-3). Individuals with CFEOM1 are born with bilateral ptosis and both eyes fixed in a downward position with absent upgaze and aberrant horizontal gaze. This disorder maps to the FEOM1 locus on chromosome 12cen.(1,2) Neuropathology studies of CFEOM1 reveal the absence of the superior division of oculomotor nerve and its corresponding alpha motor neurons in the midbrain, with abnormalities of target EOMs.(3) These neuropathology findings parallel those previously identified in Duane syndrome, in which there is an absence of nVI and the abducens nerve.(4,5) Individuals with CFEOM2 are born with bilateral ptosis and exotropia. This atypical form of CFEOM maps to the FEOM2 locus on chromosome 11q13 and results from mutations in ARIX (PHOX2A).(6,7) ARIX encodes a homeodomain transcription factor protein previously shown to be required for nIII/nIV development in mouse and zebrafish.(8,9) Together, these findings support the hypothesis that the congenital fibrosis syndromes result from parallel defects in nIII, nIV, and nVI nuclear development. Functional studies of the CFEOM genes should provide additional insight into the unique features of the extraocular lower motor neuron axis in health and disease. (For full (refs. 1-9), see reference list of the main paper.)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Duane Retraction Syndrome / genetics
  • Eye Diseases, Hereditary / genetics*
  • Humans