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International Consortium to Identify Genes and Interactions Controlling Oral Clefts

Oral clefts represent the most common group of craniofacial birth defects in humans, and include cleft lip with or without cleft palate (CL/P) and cleft palate (CP). Oral clefts have a complex and heterogeneous etiology, with strong evidence for both genetic and environmental causal factors. Candidate gene studies and genome wide linkage studies have yielded compelling but inconsistent evidence that multiple genes control risk, and several studies have shown evidence for interaction between genes and environmental exposures, especially maternal smoking and nutrient intake. This consortium pulls together a very large collection of cases and their parents from multiple populations, and offers a unique opportunity to expand the search for genes controlling risk to the genome wide level.

The specific aims are:

  1. To conduct a genome wide analysis on 2000+ case-parent trios ascertained through a case with isolated, non-syndromic CL/P or CP to test for linkage and disequilibrium. Initial analysis will consist of individual tests for gene effects while simultaneously testing for GxE interaction with common maternal exposures including vitamin supplementation, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption (which have all been implicated as environmental risk factors for oral clefts).
  2. To use haplotypes in tests for GxE interaction incorporating population specific estimates. Since haplotype frequencies vary among populations, trios will be assigned haplotypes in a stratified estimation and then a pooled test statistic will be constructed.
  3. To test for interaction between SNPs in different genes showing evidence of influencing risk in a test for GxG interaction.
  4. To test for interaction between genes and maternal biomarkers using trios from Utah where measures of plasma folate, vitamin B-6, homocysteine and zinc in mothers are available.

This study is part of the Gene Environment Association Studies initiative (GENEVA,, which was developed through the trans-NIH Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (GEI). The overarching goal is to identify novel genetic factors that contribute to oral clefts through large-scale genome-wide association studies of well-characterized cases and their parents from multiple populations. Genotyping was performed at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR). The study was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Data cleaning and harmonization were done at the GEI-funded GENEVA Coordinating Center at the University of Washington.