Adult diagnosis of Townes-Brocks syndrome with renal failure: Two related cases and review of literature

Am J Med Genet A. 2021 Mar;185(3):937-944. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.62050. Epub 2021 Jan 13.


Townes-Brocks syndrome (TBS) is a rare autosomal dominant syndrome, resulting from heterozygous variant in SALL1 gene and initially characterized by the triad of anorectal, thumb, and ear malformations. Essentially described in children, adult case reports are uncommon. Renal involvement has already been reported in adults and children but poorly described. Structural abnormalities such as hypodysplasia, unilateral renal agenesis or multicystic kidneys have been described, as well as functional impairment (with or without structural abnormalities) that may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). We report two adult cases (mother and daughter) which exhibited kidney hypoplasia (focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis for the mother) and ESRD. The mother had unilateral polydactyly. TBS was suggested after physical examination. TBS diagnosis was confirmed by identification of a SALL1 variant. We conducted a literature review to evaluate the renal anomalies in TBS cases diagnosed in adulthood. Among 44 adult cases of TBS with genetic confirmation (including our two cases), 10 had kidney disease. The circumstances of renal failure diagnosis were incidental findings (2/5), gout (2/5), or repeated episodes of pyelonephritis (1/5). The median age of kidney disease diagnosis was 30 years old and of renal transplant 49 years old. The most frequent renal malformation was bilateral kidney hypoplasia. TBS is probably underestimated in adulthood and this report highlights that less obvious elements of morphology such as dysplasic ears can facilitate the diagnosis of TBS. As long-term prognosis of renal involvement in TBS patients remains largely unknown, a regular evaluation is required throughout life for patients.

Keywords: SALL1; Townes-Brocks syndrome; adult; deafness; renal failure.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / diagnosis
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics
  • Abortion, Habitual / genetics
  • Anus, Imperforate / complications*
  • Anus, Imperforate / diagnosis
  • Anus, Imperforate / genetics
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Ear, External / abnormalities
  • Female
  • Hammer Toe Syndrome / genetics
  • Hearing Loss, Bilateral / genetics
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / complications*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / genetics
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedigree
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polydactyly / genetics
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Retinal Dystrophies / genetics
  • Thumb / abnormalities*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • SALL1 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors

Supplementary concepts

  • Townes-Brocks syndrome