A Genetics-First Approach Revealed Monogenic Disorders in Patients With ARM and VACTERL Anomalies

Front Pediatr. 2020 Jun 23:8:310. doi: 10.3389/fped.2020.00310. eCollection 2020.


Background: The VATER/VACTERL association (VACTERL) is defined as the non-random occurrence of the following congenital anomalies: Vertebral, Anal, Cardiac, Tracheal-Esophageal, Renal, and Limb anomalies. As no unequivocal candidate gene has been identified yet, patients are diagnosed phenotypically. The aims of this study were to identify patients with monogenic disorders using a genetics-first approach, and to study whether variants in candidate genes are involved in the etiology of VACTERL or the individual features of VACTERL: Anorectal malformation (ARM) or esophageal atresia with or without trachea-esophageal fistula (EA/TEF). Methods: Using molecular inversion probes, a candidate gene panel of 56 genes was sequenced in three patient groups: VACTERL (n = 211), ARM (n = 204), and EA/TEF (n = 95). Loss-of-function (LoF) and additional likely pathogenic missense variants, were prioritized and validated using Sanger sequencing. Validated variants were tested for segregation and patients were clinically re-evaluated. Results: In 7 out of the 510 patients (1.4%), pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants were identified in SALL1, SALL4, and MID1, genes that are associated with Townes-Brocks, Duane-radial-ray, and Opitz-G/BBB syndrome. These syndromes always include ARM or EA/TEF, in combination with at least two other VACTERL features. We did not identify LoF variants in the remaining candidate genes. Conclusions: None of the other candidate genes were identified as novel unequivocal disease genes for VACTERL. However, a genetics-first approach allowed refinement of the clinical diagnosis in seven patients, in whom an alternative molecular-based diagnosis was found with important implications for the counseling of the families.

Keywords: Opitz-G/BBB syndrome; anorectal malformations; duane-radial ray syndrome; esophageal atresia; genetics-first; molecular inversion probe; townes-brocks syndrome.