Mutations in Interferon Regulatory Factor 6 (IRF6) have been identified in two human allelic syndromes with cleft lip and/or palate: Van der Woude (VWS) and Popliteal Pterygium syndromes (PPS). Furthermore, common IRF6 haplotypes and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) alleles are strongly associated with nonsyndromic clefting defects in multiple ethnic populations. Mutations in the mouse often provide good models for the study of human diseases and developmental processes. We identified the cleft palate 1 (clft1) mouse mutant in a forward genetic screen for phenotypes modeling human congenital disease. In the clft1 mutant, we have identified a novel missense point mutation in the mouse Irf6 gene, which confers an amino acid alteration that has been found in a VWS family. Phenotypic comparison of clft1 mutants to previously reported Irf6 mutant alleles demonstrates the Irf6(clft1) allele is a hypomorphic allele. The cleft palate seen in these mutants appears to be due to abnormal adhesion between the palate and tongue. The Irf6(clft1) allele provides the first mouse model for the study of an etiologic IRF6 missense mutation observed in a human VWS family.
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