In most instances of preaxial polydactyly (PPD), Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), an essential limb patterning signal, is ectopically expressed in an anterior region of the developing limb in addition to the normal posterior domain. It is thought that this anterior Shh expression leads directly to the development of the extra digits. Recent reports have identified a conserved limb-specific Shh enhancer approximately 1 megabase upstream of the Shh transcription initiation site, and individual base pair changes within this region are associated with PPD. We report here that a single base pair change within this enhancer is sufficient to drive beta-galactosidase expression in both anterior and posterior limb domains, similar to Shh expression in animal PPD models, whereas a wild-type construct is expressed only in the posterior limb, similar to Shh expression in normal embryos. These findings provide the first direct evidence that a single base pair change within the limb-specific Shh enhancer acts as a genetic basis for PPD.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.