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Townes-Brocks Syndrome

Townes-Brocks Syndrome

Reviewed October 2007

What is Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

Townes-Brocks syndrome is a genetic condition that affects several parts of the body. The most common features of this condition are an obstruction of the anal opening (imperforate anus), abnormally shaped ears, and hand malformations that most often affect the thumb. Most people with this condition have at least two of these three major features.

Other possible signs and symptoms of Townes-Brocks syndrome include kidney abnormalities, mild to profound hearing loss, heart defects, and genital malformations. These features vary among affected individuals, even within the same family. Intellectual disability or learning problems have also been reported in about 10 percent of people with Townes-Brocks syndrome.

How common is Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

The prevalence of this condition is unknown, although one study estimated that it may affect 1 in 250,000 people. It is difficult to determine how frequently Townes-Brocks syndrome occurs because the varied signs and symptoms of this disorder overlap with those of other genetic syndromes.

What genes are related to Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

Mutations in the SALL1 gene cause Townes-Brocks Syndrome. The SALL1 gene is part of a group of genes called the SALL family. These genes provide instructions for making proteins that are involved in the formation of tissues and organs before birth. SALL proteins act as transcription factors, which means they attach (bind) to specific regions of DNA and help control the activity of particular genes. Some mutations in the SALL1 gene lead to the production of an abnormally short version of the SALL1 protein that malfunctions within the cell. Other mutations prevent one copy of the gene in each cell from making any protein. It is unclear how these genetic changes disrupt normal development and cause the birth defects associated with Townes-Brocks syndrome.

Read more about the SALL1 gene.

How do people inherit Townes-Brocks 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 some 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 Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

These resources address the diagnosis or management of Townes-Brocks Syndrome and may include treatment providers.

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of Townes-Brocks 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 Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

You may find the following resources about Townes-Brocks 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 Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

  • anal-ear-renal-radial malformation syndrome
  • deafness-imperforate anus-hypoplastic thumbs syndrome
  • imperforate anus-hand and foot anomalies syndrome
  • renal-ear-anal-radial syndrome (REAR)
  • sensorineural deafness-imperforate anus-hypoplastic thumbs syndrome
  • Townes 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 Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?

What glossary definitions help with understanding Townes-Brocks Syndrome?

anus ; autosomal ; autosomal dominant ; cell ; disability ; DNA ; gene ; imperforate anus ; inherited ; kidney ; malformation ; mutation ; obstruction ; prevalence ; protein ; renal ; sensorineural ; syndrome ; transcription

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

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (6 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.

Reviewed: October 2007
Published: February 1, 2016