ALDH1A3 mutations cause recessive anophthalmia and microphthalmia

Am J Hum Genet. 2013 Feb 7;92(2):265-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.12.003. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


Anophthalmia and microphthalmia (A/M) are early-eye-development anomalies resulting in absent or small ocular globes, respectively. A/M anomalies occur in syndromic or nonsyndromic forms. They are genetically heterogeneous, some mutations in some genes being responsible for both anophthalmia and microphthalmia. Using a combination of homozygosity mapping, exome sequencing, and Sanger sequencing, we identified homozygosity for one splice-site and two missense mutations in the gene encoding the A3 isoform of the aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1A3) in three consanguineous families segregating A/M with occasional orbital cystic, neurological, and cardiac anomalies. ALDH1A3 is a key enzyme in the formation of a retinoic acid gradient along the dorso-ventral axis during early eye development. Transitory expression of mutant ALDH1A3 open reading frames showed that both missense mutations reduce the accumulation of the enzyme, potentially leading to altered retinoic acid synthesis. Although the role of retinoic acid signaling in eye development is well established, our findings provide genetic evidence of a direct link between retinoic-acid-synthesis dysfunction and early-eye-development anomalies in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • Anophthalmos / enzymology*
  • Anophthalmos / genetics*
  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics
  • Exons / genetics
  • Female
  • Genes, Recessive / genetics*
  • Genetic Linkage
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics
  • Male
  • Microphthalmos / enzymology*
  • Microphthalmos / genetics*
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Pedigree
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Mutant Proteins
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • aldehyde dehydrogenase (NAD(P)+)