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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions     A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®

Nail-patella syndrome

Reviewed April 2013

What is nail-patella syndrome?

Nail-patella syndrome is characterized by abnormalities of the nails, knees, elbows, and pelvis. The features of nail-patella syndrome vary in severity between affected individuals, even among members of the same family.

Nail abnormalities are seen in almost all individuals with nail-patella syndrome. The nails may be absent or underdeveloped and discolored, split, ridged, or pitted. The fingernails are more likely to be affected than the toenails, and the thumbnails are usually the most severely affected. In many people with this condition, the areas at the base of the nails (lunulae) are triangular instead of the usual crescent shape.

Individuals with nail-patella syndrome also commonly have skeletal abnormalities involving the knees, elbows, and hips. The kneecaps (patellae) are small, irregularly shaped, or absent, and dislocation of the patella is common. Some people with this condition may not be able to fully extend their arms or turn their palms up while keeping their elbows straight. The elbows may also be angled outward (cubitus valgus) or have abnormal webbing. Many individuals with nail-patella syndrome have horn-like outgrowths of the iliac bones of the pelvis (iliac horns). These abnormal projections may be felt through the skin, but they do not cause any symptoms and are usually detected on a pelvic x-ray. Iliac horns are very common in people with nail-patella syndrome and are rarely, if ever, seen in people without this condition.

Other areas of the body may also be affected in nail-patella syndrome, particularly the eyes and kidneys. Individuals with this condition are at risk of developing increased pressure within the eyes (glaucoma) at an early age. Some people develop kidney disease, which can progress to kidney failure.

How common is nail-patella syndrome?

The prevalence of nail-patella syndrome is estimated to be 1 in 50,000 individuals.

What genes are related to nail-patella syndrome?

Mutations in the LMX1B gene cause nail-patella syndrome. The LMX1B gene provides instructions for producing a protein that attaches (binds) to specific regions of DNA and regulates the activity of other genes. On the basis of this role, the LMX1B protein is called a transcription factor. The LMX1B protein appears to be particularly important during early embryonic development of the limbs, kidneys, and eyes. Mutations in the LMX1B gene lead to the production of an abnormally short, nonfunctional protein or affect the protein's ability to bind to DNA. It is unclear how mutations in the LMX1B gene lead to the signs and symptoms of nail-patella syndrome.

Related Gene(s)

Changes in this gene are associated with nail-patella syndrome.

  • LMX1B

How do people inherit nail-patella syndrome?

Nail-patella syndrome 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 may result from new mutations in the LMX1B gene. These cases occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.

Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of nail-patella syndrome?

These resources address the diagnosis or management of nail-patella syndrome and may include treatment providers.

  • Gene Review: Nail-Patella Syndrome (
  • Genetic Testing Registry: Nail-patella syndrome (

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of nail-patella syndrome in Educational resources and Patient support.

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 nail-patella syndrome?

You may find the following resources about nail-patella 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 nail-patella syndrome?

  • Fong disease
  • hereditary onycho-osteodysplasia
  • hereditary osteo-onychodysplasia
  • Osterreicher syndrome
  • pelvic horn syndrome
  • Turner-Kieser syndrome

For more information about naming genetic conditions, see the Genetics Home Reference Condition Naming Guidelines ( and How are genetic conditions and genes named? ( in the Handbook.

What if I still have specific questions about nail-patella syndrome?

Ask the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (

What glossary definitions help with understanding nail-patella syndrome?

autosomal ; autosomal dominant ; cell ; dislocation ; DNA ; embryonic ; gene ; glaucoma ; hereditary ; inherited ; kidney ; mutation ; patella ; pelvis ; prevalence ; protein ; syndrome ; transcription ; transcription factor

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.


  • Bongers EM, Huysmans FT, Levtchenko E, de Rooy JW, Blickman JG, Admiraal RJ, Huygen PL, Cruysberg JR, Toolens PA, Prins JB, Krabbe PF, Borm GF, Schoots J, van Bokhoven H, van Remortele AM, Hoefsloot LH, van Kampen A, Knoers NV. Genotype-phenotype studies in nail-patella syndrome show that LMX1B mutation location is involved in the risk of developing nephropathy. Eur J Hum Genet. 2005 Aug;13(8):935-46. (
  • Gene Review: Nail-Patella Syndrome (
  • Marini M, Bocciardi R, Gimelli S, Di Duca M, Divizia MT, Baban A, Gaspar H, Mammi I, Garavelli L, Cerone R, Emma F, Bedeschi MF, Tenconi R, Sensi A, Salmaggi A, Bengala M, Mari F, Colussi G, Szczaluba K, Antonarakis SE, Seri M, Lerone M, Ravazzolo R. A spectrum of LMX1B mutations in Nail-Patella syndrome: new point mutations, deletion, and evidence of mosaicism in unaffected parents. Genet Med. 2010 Jul;12(7):431-9. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181e21afa. (
  • McIntosh I, Dunston JA, Liu L, Hoover-Fong JE, Sweeney E. Nail patella syndrome revisited: 50 years after linkage. Ann Hum Genet. 2005 Jul;69(Pt 4):349-63. (
  • Sweeney E, Fryer A, Mountford R, Green A, McIntosh I. Nail patella syndrome: a review of the phenotype aided by developmental biology. J Med Genet. 2003 Mar;40(3):153-62. (


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.

Reviewed: April 2013
Published: February 1, 2016