The developmental and genetic basis of 'clubfoot' in the peroneal muscular atrophy mutant mouse

Development. 2018 Feb 8;145(3):dev160093. doi: 10.1242/dev.160093.


Genetic factors underlying the human limb abnormality congenital talipes equinovarus ('clubfoot') remain incompletely understood. The spontaneous autosomal recessive mouse 'peroneal muscular atrophy' mutant (PMA) is a faithful morphological model of human clubfoot. In PMA mice, the dorsal (peroneal) branches of the sciatic nerves are absent. In this study, the primary developmental defect was identified as a reduced growth of sciatic nerve lateral motor column (LMC) neurons leading to failure to project to dorsal (peroneal) lower limb muscle blocks. The pma mutation was mapped and a candidate gene encoding LIM-domain kinase 1 (Limk1) identified, which is upregulated in mutant lateral LMC motor neurons. Genetic and molecular analyses showed that the mutation acts in the EphA4-Limk1-Cfl1/cofilin-actin pathway to modulate growth cone extension/collapse. In the chicken, both experimental upregulation of Limk1 by electroporation and pharmacological inhibition of actin turnover led to defects in hindlimb spinal motor neuron growth and pathfinding, and mimicked the clubfoot phenotype. The data support a neuromuscular aetiology for clubfoot and provide a mechanistic framework to understand clubfoot in humans.

Keywords: Axon guidance; Chicken; Clubfoot; Limb development; Limk1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease / embryology*
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease / genetics
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease / pathology
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Clubfoot / embryology*
  • Clubfoot / genetics*
  • Clubfoot / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / abnormalities
  • Humans
  • Lim Kinases / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / abnormalities
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Mutation*
  • Peroneal Nerve / abnormalities
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptor, EphA4 / deficiency
  • Receptor, EphA4 / genetics
  • Sciatic Nerve / abnormalities
  • Up-Regulation


  • Receptor, EphA4
  • Lim Kinases
  • Limk1 protein, mouse