Alagille syndrome (OMIM 118450) is an autosomal dominant disorder associated with abnormalities of the liver, heart, eye, skeleton, and a characteristic facial appearance. Also referred to as the Alagille-Watson syndrome, syndromic bile duct paucity, and arteriohepatic dysplasia, it is a significant cause of neonatal jaundice and cholestasis in older children. In the fully expressed syndrome, affected subjects have intrahepatic bile duct paucity and cholestasis, in conjunction with cardiac malformations (most frequently peripheral pulmonary stenosis), ophthalmological abnormalities (typically of the anterior chamber with posterior embryotoxon being the most common), skeletal anomalies (most commonly butterfly vertebrae), and characteristic facial appearance. Inheritance is autosomal dominant, but expressivity is highly variable. Sibs and parents of probands are often found to have mild expression of the presumptive disease gene, with abnormalities of only one or two systems. The frequency of new mutations appears relatively high, estimated at between 15 and 50%. The disease gene has been mapped to chromosome 20 band p12 based on multiple patients described with cytogenetic or molecular rearrangements of this region. However, the frequency of detectable deletions of 20p12 is low (less than 7%). Progress has been made in the molecular definition of an Alagille syndrome critical region within the short arm of chromosome 20. We will review the clinical, genetic, cytogenetic, and molecular findings in this syndrome.
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