Idiopathic congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) has been linked to autonomic nervous system dysregulation and/or dysfunction (ANSD) since it was first described in 1970. A genetic basis of CCHS has been proposed because of the reports of four families with two affected children, because of mother-child transmission, and because of a recent report of a polyalanine expansion mutation in PHOX2b in a subset of CCHS subjects. We, therefore, studied genes pertinent to early embryologic development of the ANS including mammalian achaetescute homolog-1 (MASH1), bone morphogenic protein-2 (BMP2), engrailed-1 (EN1), TLX3, endothelin converting enzyme-1 (ECE1), endothelin-1 (EDN1), PHOX2a, and PHOX2b in 67 probands with CCHS, and gender- and ethnicity-matched controls. No disease-defining mutations were identified in MASH1, BMP2, EN1, TLX3, ECE1, EDN1, or PHOX2a. The 65/67 CCHS probands (97%) were found to be heterozygous for the exon 3 polyalanine expansion mutation identified previously in PHOX2b. Further, there was an association between repeat mutation length and severity of the CCHS/ANSD phenotype. Of the two probands who did not carry the expansion mutation, one had a nonsense mutation in exon 3 which truncated the protein and the other had no mutation in PHOX2b but had a previously reported EDN3 frameshift point mutation. The polyalanine expansion mutation was not found in any of 67 matched controls. Of 54 available families (including 97 unaffected parents), whose child carried the PHOX2b mutation, 4 parents demonstrated mosaicism for an expansion mutation identical to that seen in the CCHS cases, suggesting that not all mutations in affected probands with unaffected parents are de novo. We also studied four women with CCHS who were heterozygous for the PHOX2b mutation, each with one child. Three of the four children were also affected and had the same mutation, demonstrating autosomal dominant inheritance of the mutation. Assay of the PHOX2b polyalanine repeat mutation represents a highly sensitive and specific technique for confirming the diagnosis of CCHS. Identification of the CCHS mutation will lead to clarification of the phenotype, allow for prenatal diagnosis for parents of CCHS probands and adults with CCHS in future pregnancies, and potentially direct intervention strategies for the treatment of CCHS.
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