The sun-sensitive form of the severe neurodevelopmental, brittle hair disorder trichothiodystrophy (TTD) is caused by point mutations in the essential XPB and XPD helicase subunits of the dual functional DNA repair/basal transcription factor TFIIH. The phenotype is hypothesized to be in part derived from a nucleotide excision repair defect and in part from a subtle basal transcription deficiency accounting for the nonrepair TTD features. Using a novel gene-targeting strategy, we have mimicked the causative XPD point mutation of a TTD patient in the mouse. TTD mice reflect to a remarkable extent the human disorder, including brittle hair, developmental abnormalities, reduced life span, UV sensitivity, and skin abnormalities. The cutaneous symptoms are associated with reduced transcription of a skin-specific gene strongly supporting the concept of TTD as a human disease due to inborn defects in basal transcription and DNA repair.
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