Phenotypic Variability in Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and Its Putative Link to Environmental Factors

Genes (Basel). 2022 Mar 17;13(3):528. doi: 10.3390/genes13030528.


Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS) is a multi-systemic disorder characterized by both genetic and phenotypic variability. Genetic abnormalities causing PMS span from pathogenic variants of the SHANK3 gene to chromosomal rearrangements affecting the 22q13 region and leading to the loss of up to over nine megabases. The clinical presentation of individuals with PMS includes intellectual disability, neonatal hypotonia, delayed or absent speech, developmental delay, and minor dysmorphic facial features. Several other features may present with differences in age of onset and/or severity: seizures, autism, regression, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems, renal disorders, dysplastic toenails, and disrupted thermoregulation. Among the causes of this phenotypic variability, the size of the 22q13 deletion has effects that may be influenced by environmental factors interacting with haploinsufficiency or hemizygous variants of certain genes. Another mechanism linking environmental factors and phenotypic variability in PMS involves the loss of one copy of genes like BRD1 or CYP2D6, located at 22q13 and involved in the regulation of genomic methylation or pharmacokinetics, which are also influenced by external agents, such as diet and drugs. Overall, several non-mutually exclusive genetic and epigenetic mechanisms interact with environmental factors and may contribute to the clinical variability observed in individuals with PMS. Characterization of such factors will help to better manage this disorder.

Keywords: 22q13 deletion; BRD1; CYP2D6; PNPLA3; Phelan–McDermid syndrome; SHANK3; epigenetics; haploinsufficiency; pharmacogenomics; phenotypic variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Biological Variation, Population
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosome Disorders* / genetics
  • Chromosome Disorders* / pathology
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 22
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins* / genetics


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins

Supplementary concepts

  • Telomeric 22q13 Monosomy Syndrome