Genetic background dependent modifiers of craniosynostosis severity

Amel Dudakovic, Hwa Kyung Nam, Andre J.van Wijnen, Nan E. Hatch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Craniosynostosis severity varies in patients with identical genetic mutations. To understand causes of this phenotypic variation, we backcrossed the FGFR2+/C342Y mouse model of Crouzon syndrome onto congenic C57BL/6 and BALB/c backgrounds. Coronal suture fusion was observed in C57BL/6 (88% incidence, p < .001 between genotypes) but not in BALB/c FGFR2+/C342Y mutant mice at 3 weeks after birth, establishing that that the two models differ in phenotype severity. To begin identifying pre-existing modifiers of craniosynostosis severity, we compared transcriptome signatures of cranial tissues from C57BL/6 vs. BALB/c FGFR2+/+ mice. We separately analyzed frontal bone with coronal suture tissue from parietal bone with sagittal suture tissues because the coronal suture but not the sagittal suture fuses in FGFR2+/C342Y mice. The craniosynostosis associated Twist and En1 transcription factors were down-regulated, while Runx2 was up-regulated, in C57BL/6 compared to BALB/c tissues, which could predispose to craniosynostosis. Transcriptome analyses under the GO term MAPK cascade revealed that genes associated with calcium ion channels, angiogenesis, protein quality control and cell stress response were central to transcriptome differences associated with genetic background. FGFR2 and HSPA2 protein levels plus ERK1/2 activity were higher in cells isolated from C57BL/6 than BALB/c cranial tissues. Notably, the HSPA2 protein chaperone is central to craniofacial genetic epistasis, and we find that FGFR2 protein is abnormally processed in primary cells from FGFR2+/C342Y but not FGFR2+/+ mice. Therefore, we propose that differences in protein quality control responses may contribute to genetic background influences on craniosynostosis phenotype severity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107629
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Bone and bones
  • Craniofacial
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Gene expression
  • Mice- inbred strains
  • Phenotype
  • RNA sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic background dependent modifiers of craniosynostosis severity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this