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

Tetra-amelia syndrome

Reviewed February 2008

What is tetra-amelia syndrome?

Tetra-amelia syndrome is a very rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. ("Tetra" is the Greek word for "four," and "amelia" refers to the failure of an arm or leg to develop before birth.) This syndrome can also cause severe malformations of other parts of the body, including the face and head, heart, nervous system, skeleton, and genitalia. The lungs are underdeveloped in many cases, which makes breathing difficult or impossible. Because children with tetra-amelia syndrome have such serious medical problems, most are stillborn or die shortly after birth.

How common is tetra-amelia syndrome?

Tetra-amelia syndrome has been reported in only a few families worldwide.

What genes are related to tetra-amelia syndrome?

Researchers have found a mutation in the WNT3 gene in people with tetra-amelia syndrome from one large family. This gene is part of a family of WNT genes that play critical roles in development before birth. The protein produced from the WNT3 gene is involved in the formation of the limbs and other body systems during embryonic development. Mutations in the WNT3 gene prevent cells from producing functional WNT3 protein, which disrupts normal limb formation and leads to the other serious birth defects associated with tetra-amelia syndrome.

In other affected families, the cause of tetra-amelia syndrome has not been determined. Researchers believe that unidentified mutations in WNT3 or other genes involved in limb development are probably responsible for the disorder in these cases.

Related Gene(s)

Changes in this gene are associated with tetra-amelia syndrome.

  • WNT3

How do people inherit tetra-amelia syndrome?

In most of the families reported so far, tetra-amelia syndrome appears to have an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance. Autosomal recessive inheritance means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with tetra-amelia syndrome each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.

Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of tetra-amelia syndrome?

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

  • Gene Review: Tetra-Amelia Syndrome (
  • Genetic Testing Registry: Tetraamelia, autosomal recessive (

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of tetra-amelia 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 tetra-amelia syndrome?

You may find the following resources about tetra-amelia 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 tetra-amelia syndrome?

  • Tetra-amelia
  • Tetra-amelia, autosomal recessive

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 tetra-amelia syndrome?

Ask the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (

What glossary definitions help with understanding tetra-amelia syndrome?

amelia ; autosomal ; autosomal recessive ; cell ; embryonic ; gene ; genitalia ; inheritance ; mutation ; nervous system ; pattern of inheritance ; protein ; recessive ; syndrome

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


  • Başaran S, Yüksel A, Ermiş H, Kuseyri F, Ağan M, Yüksel-Apak M. Tetra-amelia, lung hypo-/aplasia, cleft lip-palate, and heart defect: a new syndrome? Am J Med Genet. 1994 May 15;51(1):77-80. (
  • Gene Review: Tetra-Amelia Syndrome (
  • Gershoni-Baruch R, Drugan A, Bronshtein M, Zimmer EZ. Roberts syndrome or "X-linked amelia"? Am J Med Genet. 1990 Dec;37(4):569-72. (
  • Krahn M, Julia S, Sigaudy S, Liprandi A, Bernard R, Gonnet K, Heuertz S, Bonaventure J, Chau C, Fredouille C, Levy N, Philip N. Tetra-amelia and lung aplasia syndrome: report of a new family and exclusion of candidate genes. Clin Genet. 2005 Dec;68(6):558-60. (
  • Niemann S, Zhao C, Pascu F, Stahl U, Aulepp U, Niswander L, Weber JL, Müller U. Homozygous WNT3 mutation causes tetra-amelia in a large consanguineous family. Am J Hum Genet. 2004 Mar;74(3):558-63. Epub 2004 Feb 5. (
  • Ohdo S, Madokoro H, Sonoda T, Takei M, Yasuda H, Mori N. Association of tetra-amelia, ectodermal dysplasia, hypoplastic lacrimal ducts and sacs opening towards the exterior, peculiar face, and developmental retardation. J Med Genet. 1987 Oct;24(10):609-12. (
  • Ohdo S, Sonoda T, Ohba K. Natural history and postmortem anatomy of a patient with tetra-amelia, ectodermal dysplasia, peculiar face, and developmental retardation (MIM 273390). J Med Genet. 1994 Dec;31(12):980-1. (
  • Rosenak D, Ariel I, Arnon J, Diamant YZ, Ben Chetrit A, Nadjari M, Zilberman R, Yaffe H, Cohen T, Ornoy A. Recurrent tetraamelia and pulmonary hypoplasia with multiple malformations in sibs. Am J Med Genet. 1991 Jan;38(1):25-8. (
  • Zimmer EZ, Taub E, Sova Y, Divon MY, Pery M, Peretz BA. Tetra-amelia with multiple malformations in six male fetuses of one kindred. Eur J Pediatr. 1985 Nov;144(4):412-4. (
  • Zlotogora J, Sagi M, Shabany YO, Jarallah RY. Syndrome of tetraamelia with pulmonary hypoplasia. Am J Med Genet. 1993 Sep 15;47(4):570-1. (


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: February 2008
Published: February 1, 2016