13q deletion syndrome

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Jyostna Chouturi, M.B.B.S [2]


13q deletion syndrome is a rare genetic disease caused by the deletion of some or all of the large arm of human chromosome 13. It causes intellectual disability and congenital malformations that affect a variety of organ systems.

Signs and symptoms

Different areas of deletion are associated with different symptoms. Deletions from the centromere to 13q32 or any deletions including the 13q32 band are associated with slow growth, intellectual disability, and congenital malformations. Deletions from 13q33 to the end of the chromosome are associated with intellectual disability. Intellectual disabilities range from very mild to very severe, and can co-occur with behavioral disorders and/or autism spectrum disorders.[1]

At birth, the main symptoms include low weight (due to intrauterine growth restriction), hypotonia, and feeding difficulties. Infants may also have cleft palate.[1]

13q deletion syndrome gives a characteristic appearance to affected individuals, potentially including microphthalmia (small eyes), hypertelorism (wide-set eyes), thin forehead, high palate, underdeveloped midface, small mouth, small nose, broad, flat nasal bridge, short neck, low hairline, irregular or wrongly positioned teeth, low-set ears, micrognathia (small jaw), tooth enamel defects, short stature, microcephaly (small head), a prominent, long philtrum, and earlobes turned inwards.[1][2]

Congenital heart disease is associated with 13q deletion syndrome. Common defects include atrial septal defect, tetralogy of Fallot, ventricular septal defect, patent ductus arteriosus, pulmonary stenosis, and coarctation of the aorta. Defects of the endocrine system, digestive system, and genitourinary system are also common. These include underdevelopment or agenesis of the pancreas, adrenal glands, thymus, gallbladder, and thyroid; Hirschsprung's disease; gastric reflux, imperforate anus, retention testis, ectopic kidney, renal agenesis, and hydronephrosis.[1]

A variety of brain abnormalities are also associated with 13q deletion. They can include epilepsy, craniosynostosis (premature closing of the skull bones), spastic diplegia, cerebral hypotrophy, underdevelopment or agenesis of the corpus callosum, cerebellar hypoplasia, deafness, and, rarely, hydrocephalus, Dandy–Walker syndrome, and spina bifida. The eyes can be severely damaged and affected individuals may be blind. They may also have coloboma of the iris or choroid, strabismus, nystagmus, glaucoma, or cataracts.[1]

Other skeletal malformations are found with 13q deletion syndrome, including syndactyly, clubfoot, clinodactyly, and malformations of the vertebrae and/or thumbs.[1]

Deletions that include the 13q32 band, which contains the brain development gene ZIC2, are associated with holoprosencephaly; they are also associated with hand and foot malformations. Deletions that include the 13q14 band, which contains the tumor suppressor gene Rb, are associated with a higher risk of developing retinoblastoma, which is more common in XY children. Deletion of the 13q33.3 band is associated with hypospadias.[1] Other genes in the potentially affected region include NUFIP1, HTR2A, PDCH8, and PCDH17.[2]


13q deletion syndrome can only be definitively diagnosed by genetic analysis, which can be done prenatally or after birth.[1] Increased nuchal translucency in a first-trimester ultrasound may indicate the presence of 13q deletion.[3]


This disorder is caused by the deletion of the long arm of chromosome 13, which can either be deleted linearly or as a ring chromosome. It is typically not hereditary—the loss of a portion of the chromosome typically occurs during gametogenesis, making it a de novo mutation. When it is hereditary, it is usually caused by a parent having mosaicism or a balanced translocation.[1]

The severity of the disorder is correlated with the size of the deletion, with larger deletions causing more severe manifestations.[1]


Although there is no cure for 13q deletion syndrome, symptoms can be managed, usually with the involvement of a neurologist, rehabilitation physician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychotherapist, nutritionist, special education professional, and/or speech therapist. If the affected child's growth is particularly slow, growth hormone treatment can be used to augment growth. Plastic surgeries can repair cleft palates, and surgical repair or monitoring by a pediatric cardiologist can manage cardiac defects. Some skeletal, neurological, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, and ophthalmic abnormalities can be definitively treated with surgery. Endocrine abnormalities can often be managed medically. Special educators, speech and occupational therapists, and physiotherapists can help a child develop skills in and out of school.[1]


Affected individuals have a somewhat shortened lifespan. The maximum described lifespan is 67 years. Adults with 13q deletion syndrome often need support services to maintain their activities of daily living, including adult day care services or housing services.[1]


It is incredibly rare, with fewer than 190 cases described.[1]


13q deletion syndrome was first described in 1963 and fully characterized in 1971.[1]


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  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 "13q deletion syndrome". www.socialstyrelsen.se. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "OMIM Entry - # 613884 - CHROMOSOME 13q14 DELETION SYNDROME". www.omim.org. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  3. Manolakos, E.; Peitsidis, P.; Garas, A.; Vetro, A.; Eleftheriades, M.; Petersen, M. B.; Papoulidis, I. (2012-01-01). "First trimester diagnosis of 13q-syndrome associated with increased fetal nuchal translucency thickness. Clinical findings and systematic review". Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology. 39 (1): 118–121. ISSN 0390-6663. PMID 22675970.