Mutations in the human RAX homeobox gene in a patient with anophthalmia and sclerocornea

Hum Mol Genet. 2004 Feb 1;13(3):315-22. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddh025. Epub 2003 Dec 8.


Anophthalmia and microphthalmia are among the most common ocular birth defects and a significant cause of congenital blindness. The etiology of anophthalmia and microphthalmia is diverse, with multiple genetic mutations associated with each of these conditions, along with potential environmental causes. Based on findings that mutations in the Rx/Rax homeobox genes in mice and fish lead to defects in retinal development and result in animal models of anophthalmia, we screened 75 individuals with anophthalmia and/or microphthalmia for mutations in the human RAX gene. We identified a single proband from this population who is a compound heterozygote for mutations in the RAX gene. This individual carries a truncated allele (Q147X) and a missense mutation (R192Q), both within the DNA-binding homeodomain of the RAX protein, and we have characterized the biochemical properties of these mutations in vitro. Parents and grandparents of the proband were found to be carriers without visible ocular defects, consistent with an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern. This is the first report of genetic mutations in the human RAX gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anophthalmos / genetics*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Cornea / abnormalities*
  • Eye Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Orbit / abnormalities
  • Orbit / diagnostic imaging
  • Pedigree
  • Radiography
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Eye Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RAX protein, human
  • Rx protein, vertebrate
  • Transcription Factors