Rare variants in KDR, encoding VEGF Receptor 2, are associated with tetralogy of Fallot

Genet Med. 2021 Oct;23(10):1952-1960. doi: 10.1038/s41436-021-01212-y. Epub 2021 Jun 10.


Purpose: Rare genetic variants in KDR, encoding the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2), have been reported in patients with tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). However, their role in disease causality and pathogenesis remains unclear.

Methods: We conducted exome sequencing in a familial case of TOF and large-scale genetic studies, including burden testing, in >1,500 patients with TOF. We studied gene-targeted mice and conducted cell-based assays to explore the role of KDR genetic variation in the etiology of TOF.

Results: Exome sequencing in a family with two siblings affected by TOF revealed biallelic missense variants in KDR. Studies in knock-in mice and in HEK 293T cells identified embryonic lethality for one variant when occurring in the homozygous state, and a significantly reduced VEGFR2 phosphorylation for both variants. Rare variant burden analysis conducted in a set of 1,569 patients of European descent with TOF identified a 46-fold enrichment of protein-truncating variants (PTVs) in TOF cases compared to controls (P = 7 × 10-11).

Conclusion: Rare KDR variants, in particular PTVs, strongly associate with TOF, likely in the setting of different inheritance patterns. Supported by genetic and in vivo and in vitro functional analysis, we propose loss-of-function of VEGFR2 as one of the mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of TOF.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exome Sequencing
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Tetralogy of Fallot* / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2* / genetics


  • KDR protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2