Denys-Drash syndrome

What causes Denys-Drash syndrome?

Denys-Drash syndrome is caused by mutations in the WT1 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein (the WT1 protein) that regulates the activity of other genes by attaching (binding) to specific regions of DNA. The WT1 protein plays a role in the development of the kidneys and gonads (ovaries in females and testes in males) before birth.

The WT1 gene mutations that cause Denys-Drash syndrome lead to the production of an abnormal protein that cannot bind to DNA. As a result, the activity of certain genes is unregulated, which impairs the development of the kidneys and reproductive organs. Abnormal development of these organs leads to diffuse glomerulosclerosis (where scar tissue forms throughout glomeruli, the tiny blood vessels in the kidney that filter waste from blood) and gonadal dysgenesis, which are characteristic features of Denys-Drash syndrome. The abnormal gene activity caused by the loss of normal WT1 protein also increases the risk of developing Wilms tumor in affected individuals.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is Denys-Drash syndrome inherited?

Denys-Drash syndrome is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. Most cases of Denys-Drash syndrome result from new (de novo) mutations in the gene that occur during the formation of reproductive cells (eggs or sperm) or in early embryonic development. These cases occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.

Last updated on 05-01-20


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The RareGuru disease database is regularly updated using data generously provided by GARD, the United States Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.

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