Cleft lip and cleft palate are frequent and debilitating congenital malformations. Mutations in the genes p63 and IRF6 have each been shown to cause cleft lip and cleft palate, but the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying this have not been clearly determined.
However, two independent teams of researchers -- one led by Jill Dixon, at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, and Hans van Bokhoven, at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centrum, The Netherlands, and the other led by Antonio Costanzo, at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata," Italy -- have now found that in mice p63 and IRF6 operate within a regulatory loop to coordinate key events in the normal development of the palate (the structure that separates the nasal cavity from the oral cavity, allowing simultaneous breathing and eating); disruption of this loop as a result of mutations in p63 and IRF6 causes cleft lip and cleft palate.
Amel Gritli-Linde, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, highlights the importance of these studies in an accompanying commentary.
The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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