Identification of 16q21 as a modifier of nonsyndromic orofacial cleft phenotypes

Jenna C. Carlson, Jennifer Standley, Aline Petrin, John R. Shaffer, Azeez Butali, Carmen J. Buxó, Eduardo Castilla, Kaare Christensen, Frederic W.D. Deleyiannis, Jacqueline T. Hecht, L. Leigh Field, Ariuntuul Garidkhuu, Lina M. Moreno Uribe, Natsume Nagato, Ieda M. Orioli, Carmencita Padilla, Fernando Poletta, Satoshi Suzuki, Alexandre R. Vieira, George L. WehbySeth M. Weinberg, Terri H. Beaty, Eleanor Feingold, Jeffrey C. Murray, Mary L. Marazita, Elizabeth J. Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Orofacial clefts (OFCs) are common, complex birth defects with extremely heterogeneous phenotypic presentations. Two common subtypes—cleft lip alone (CL) and CL plus cleft palate (CLP)—are typically grouped into a single phenotype for genetic analysis (i.e., CL with or without cleft palate, CL/P). However, mounting evidence suggests there may be unique underlying pathophysiology and/or genetic modifiers influencing expression of these two phenotypes. To this end, we performed a genome-wide scan for genetic modifiers by directly comparing 450 CL cases with 1,692 CLP cases from 18 recruitment sites across 13 countries from North America, Central or South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. We identified a region on 16q21 that is strongly associated with different cleft type (P = 5.611 × 10−8). We also identified significant evidence of gene–gene interactions between this modifier locus and two recognized CL/P risk loci: 8q21 and 9q22 (FOXE1) (P = 0.012 and 0.023, respectively). Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in the 16q21 modifier locus demonstrated significant association with CL over CLP. The marker alleles on 16q21 that increased risk for CL were found at highest frequencies among individuals with a family history of CL (P = 0.003). Our results demonstrate the existence of modifiers for which type of OFC develops and suggest plausible elements responsible for phenotypic heterogeneity, further elucidating the complex genetic architecture of OFCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-897
Number of pages11
JournalGenetic Epidemiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec


  • complex trait
  • genetic modifier
  • gene–gene interaction
  • orofacial cleft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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