Meckel syndrome: genetics, perinatal findings, and differential diagnosis

Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Mar;46(1):9-14. doi: 10.1016/S1028-4559(08)60100-X.


Meckel syndrome (MKS) is a lethal, autosomal recessive disorder characterized by occipital encephalocele, bilateral renal cystic dysplasia, hepatic ductal proliferation, fibrosis and cysts, and polydactyly. Genetic heterogeneity of MKS has been established by three reported MKS loci, i.e., MKS1 on 17q23, MKS2 on 11q13, and MKS3 on 8q21.13-q22.1. MKS1 encodes a component of flagellar apparatus basal body proteome, which is associated with ciliary function. MKS3 encodes a seven-transmembrane receptor protein, meckelin. The identification of the MKS3 gene as well as the MKS1 gene enables molecular genetic testing for at-risk families, and allows accurate genetic counseling, carrier testing, and prenatal diagnosis. Pregnancies with MKS fetuses may be associated with an elevated maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein level and an abnormal screening result in the second-trimester maternal serum screening test. The classic MKS triad of occipital encephalocele, postaxial polydactyly, and bilateral enlarged multicystic kidneys can be diagnosed before the 14th gestational weeks by ultrasonography. However, later in pregnancy, severe oligohydramnios may make the diagnosis of polydactyly and encephalocele difficult. Differential diagnosis for MKS includes autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, trisomy 13, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, hydrolethalus syndrome, Senior-Loken syndrome, Joubert syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and oral-facial-digital syndrome type 1. This article provides an overview of genetics, perinatal findings, and differential diagnosis of MKS. The ciliopathy underlies the pathogenesis of MKS. Prenatal diagnosis of bilateral enlarged multicystic kidneys should alert MKS and prompt a thorough investigation of central nervous system malformations and polydactyly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / diagnosis*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics
  • Cerebellum / abnormalities*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Encephalocele / diagnosis*
  • Encephalocele / genetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Diseases / genetics
  • Fingers / abnormalities
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / congenital*
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / diagnosis
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / genetics
  • Liver Diseases / congenital*
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases / genetics
  • Polydactyly / diagnosis*
  • Polydactyly / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Syndrome
  • Toes / abnormalities