Re-focusing on Agnathia-Otocephaly complex



Agnathia-otocephaly complex is a rare condition characterized by mandibular hypoplasia or agnathia, ear anomalies (melotia/synotia) and microstomia with aglossia. This severe anomaly of the first branchial arch is most often lethal. The estimated incidence is less than 1 in 70.000 births, with etiologies linked to both genetic and teratogenic factors. Most of the cases are sporadic. To date, two genes have been described in humans to be involved in this condition: OTX2 and PRRX1. Nevertheless, the overall proportion of mutated cases is unknown and a significant number of patients remain without molecular diagnosis. Thus, the involvement of other genes than OTX2 and PRRX1 in the agnathia-otocephaly complex is not unlikely. Heterozygous mutations in Cnbp in mice are responsible for mandibular and eye defects mimicking the agnathia-otocephaly complex in humans and appear as a good candidate. Therefore, in this study, we aimed (i) to collect patients presenting with agnathia-otocephaly complex for screening CNBP, in parallel with OTX2 and PRRX1, to check its possible implication in the human phenotype and (ii) to compare our results with the literature data to estimate the proportion of mutated cases after genetic testing.

Materials and methods

In this work, we describe 10 patients suffering from the agnathia-otocephaly complex. All of them benefited from array-CGH and Sanger sequencing of OTX2, PRRX1 and CNBP. A complete review of the literature was made using the Pubmed database to collect all the patients described with a phenotype of agnathia-otocephaly complex during the 20 last years (1998–2019) in order (i) to study etiology (genetic causes, iatrogenic causes…) and (ii), when genetic testing was performed, to study which genes were tested and by which type of technologies.


In our 10 patients’ cohort, no point mutation in the three tested genes was detected by Sanger sequencing, while array-CGH has allowed identifying a 107-kb deletion encompassing OTX2 responsible for the agnathia-otocephaly complex phenotype in 1 of them. In 4 of the 70 cases described in the literature, a toxic cause was identified and 22 out the 66 remaining cases benefited from genetic testing. Among those 22 patients, 6 were carrying mutation or deletion in the OTX2 gene and 4 in the PRRX1 gene. Thus, when compiling results from our cohort and the literature, a total of 32 patients benefited from genetic testing, with only 34% (11/32) of patients having a mutation in one of the two known genes, OTX2 or PRRX1.


From our work and the literature review, only mutations in OTX2 and PRRX1 have been found to date in patients, explaining around one third of the etiologies after genetic testing. Thus, agnathia-otocephaly complex remains unexplained in the majority of the patients, which indicates that other factors might be involved. Although involved in first branchial arch defects, no mutation in the CNBP gene was found in this study. This suggests that mutations in CNBP might not be involved in such phenotype in humans or that, unlike in mice, a compensatory effect might exist in humans. Nevertheless, given that agnathia-otocephaly complex is a rare phenotype, more patients have to be screened for CNBP mutations before we definitively conclude about its potential implication. Therefore, this work presents the current state of knowledge on agnathia-otocephaly complex and underlines the need to expand further the understanding of the genetic bases of this disorder, which remains largely unknown.

Clinical relevance

We made here an update and focus on the clinical and genetic aspects of agnathia-otocephaly complex as well as a more general review of craniofacial development.

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We are extremely indebted to the patients and their families for their participation in this study.

Author information




Charlotte Dubucs collected and analyzed data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. Julie Plaisancié conceived of and supervised the study and revised the manuscript. Marion Aubert-Mucca performed molecular analyses and analyzed data. Patrick Calvas and Nicolas Chassaing supervised the study and participated in the preparation of the manuscript. Consolato Sergi, Tania Attié-Bitach, Didier Lacombe, Christel Thauvin-Robinet Stéphanie Arpin, Marie Josée Perez, Christelle Cabrol, Chih-Ping Chen, Jacqueline Aziza, Estelle Colin, and Jelena Martinovic made the diagnosis of AGOTC and send patients’ DNA for molecular analyses. All authors read and approved the final version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julie Plaisancié.

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According to the French rules and regulations, the current study was approved by the ad hoc French Ethics Committee Comité de Protection des Personnes (CPP) Sud-Ouest et Outre-Mer II (# DC-2008-463).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Dubucs, C., Chassaing, N., Sergi, C. et al. Re-focusing on Agnathia-Otocephaly complex. Clin Oral Invest 25, 1353–1362 (2021).

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  • Agnathia-otocephaly complex
  • OTX2
  • PRRX1
  • CNBP
  • Treacher–Collins syndrome
  • Craniofacial development