|A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®|
On this page:
Reviewed March 2014
What is Clouston syndrome?
Clouston syndrome is a form of ectodermal dysplasia, a group of about 150 conditions characterized by abnormal development of some or all of the ectodermal structures, which include the skin, hair, nails, teeth, and sweat glands. Specifically, Clouston syndrome is characterized by abnormalities of the hair, nails, and skin, with the teeth and sweat glands being unaffected.
In infants with Clouston syndrome, scalp hair is sparse, patchy, and lighter in color than the hair of other family members; it is also fragile and easily broken. By puberty, the hair problems may worsen until all the hair on the scalp is lost (total alopecia). The eyelashes, eyebrows, underarm (axillary) hair, and pubic hair are also sparse or absent.
Abnormal growth of fingernails and toenails (nail dystrophy) is also characteristic of Clouston syndrome. The nails may appear white in the first years of life. They grow slowly and gradually become thick and misshapen. In some people with Clouston syndrome, nail dystrophy is the most noticeable feature of the disorder.
Many people with Clouston syndrome have thick skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet (palmoplantar hyperkeratosis); areas of the skin, especially over the joints, that are darker in color than the surrounding skin (hyperpigmentation); and widened and rounded tips of the fingers (clubbing).
How common is Clouston syndrome?
The prevalence of Clouston syndrome is unknown. Cases have been reported in many populations; the disorder is especially common among people of French-Canadian descent.
What genes are related to Clouston syndrome?
Clouston syndrome is caused by mutations in the GJB6 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein called gap junction beta 6, more commonly known as connexin 30. Connexin 30 is a member of the connexin protein family. Connexin proteins form channels called gap junctions, which permit the transport of nutrients, charged atoms (ions), and signaling molecules between neighboring cells. The size of the gap junction and the types of particles that move through it are determined by the particular connexin proteins that make up the channel. Gap junctions made with connexin 30 transport potassium ions and certain small molecules.
Connexin 30 is found in several different tissues throughout the body, including the skin (especially on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet), hair follicles, and nail beds, and plays a role in the growth and development of these tissues.
GJB6 gene mutations that cause Clouston syndrome change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in the connexin 30 protein. Although the effects of these mutations are not fully understood, they lead to abnormalities in the growth, division, and maturation of cells in the hair follicles, nails, and skin.
Read more about the GJB6 gene.
How do people inherit Clouston syndrome?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder.
In most cases, an affected person inherits the mutation from one affected parent. Other cases result from new mutations in the gene and occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of Clouston syndrome?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of Clouston syndrome and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about Clouston syndrome?
You may find the following resources about Clouston syndrome helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for Clouston syndrome?
What if I still have specific questions about Clouston syndrome?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding Clouston syndrome?
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (10 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.