Skip Navigation
Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions About   Site Map   Contact Us
Home A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®
Printer-friendly version
Warsaw breakage syndrome

Warsaw breakage syndrome

Reviewed February 2014

What is Warsaw breakage syndrome?

Warsaw breakage syndrome is a condition that can cause multiple abnormalities. People with Warsaw breakage syndrome have intellectual disability that varies from mild to severe. They also have impaired growth from birth leading to short stature and a small head size (microcephaly). Affected individuals have distinctive facial features that may include a small forehead, a short nose, a small lower jaw, a flat area between the nose and mouth (philtrum), and prominent cheeks. Other common features include hearing loss caused by nerve damage in the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss) and heart malformations.

How common is Warsaw breakage syndrome?

Warsaw breakage syndrome is a rare condition; at least four cases have been described in the medical literature.

What genes are related to Warsaw breakage syndrome?

Mutations in the DDX11 gene cause Warsaw breakage syndrome. The DDX11 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called ChlR1. This enzyme functions as a helicase. Helicases are enzymes that attach (bind) to DNA and temporarily unwind the two spiral strands (double helix) of the DNA molecule. This unwinding is necessary for copying (replicating) DNA in preparation for cell division, and for repairing damaged DNA and any mistakes that are made when DNA is copied. In addition, after DNA is copied, ChlR1 plays a role in ensuring proper separation of each chromosome during cell division. By helping repair mistakes in DNA and ensuring proper DNA replication, the ChlR1 enzyme is involved in maintaining the stability of a cell's genetic information.

DDX11 gene mutations severely reduce or completely eliminate ChlR1 enzyme activity. As a result, the enzyme cannot bind to DNA and cannot unwind the DNA strands to help with DNA replication and repair. A lack of functional ChlR1 impairs cell division and leads to an accumulation of DNA damage. This DNA damage can appear as breaks in the DNA, giving the condition its name. It is unclear how these problems in DNA maintenance lead to the specific abnormalities characteristic of Warsaw breakage syndrome.

Read more about the DDX11 gene.

How do people inherit Warsaw breakage syndrome?

This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.

Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of Warsaw breakage syndrome?

These resources address the diagnosis or management of Warsaw breakage syndrome and may include treatment providers.

You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of Warsaw breakage 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 Warsaw breakage syndrome?

You may find the following resources about Warsaw breakage 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 Warsaw breakage syndrome?

  • WABS

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 Warsaw breakage syndrome?

Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?

What glossary definitions help with understanding Warsaw breakage syndrome?

References (4 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: February 2014
Published: February 8, 2016