TBX6 compound inheritance leads to congenital vertebral malformations in humans and mice

Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Feb 15;28(4):539-547. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy358.


Congenital vertebral malformations (CVMs) are associated with human TBX6 compound inheritance that combines a rare null allele and a common hypomorphic allele at the TBX6 locus. Our previous in vitro evidence suggested that this compound inheritance resulted in a TBX6 gene dosage of less than haploinsufficiency (i.e. <50%) as a potential mechanism of TBX6-associated CVMs. To further investigate this pathogenetic model, we ascertained and collected 108 Chinese CVM cases and found that 10 (9.3%) of them carried TBX6 null mutations in combination with common hypomorphic variants at the second TBX6 allele. For in vivo functional verification and genetic analysis of TBX6 compound inheritance, we generated both null and hypomorphic mutations in mouse Tbx6 using the CRISPR-Cas9 method. These Tbx6 mutants are not identical to the patient variants at the DNA sequence level, but instead functionally mimic disease-associated TBX6 variants. Intriguingly, as anticipated by the compound inheritance model, a high penetrance of CVM phenotype was only observed in the mice with combined null and hypomorphic alleles of Tbx6. These findings are consistent with our experimental observations in humans and supported the dosage effect of TBX6 in CVM etiology. In conclusion, our findings in the newly collected human CVM subjects and Tbx6 mouse models consistently support the contention that TBX6 compound inheritance causes CVMs, potentially via a gene dosage-dependent mechanism. Furthermore, mouse Tbx6 mutants mimicking human CVM-associated variants will be useful models for further mechanistic investigations of CVM pathogenesis in the cases associated with TBX6.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnostic imaging
  • Congenital Abnormalities / genetics*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Haploinsufficiency
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Scoliosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Scoliosis / genetics*
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology
  • Spine / abnormalities*
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / physiopathology
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / genetics*


  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • TBX6 protein, human