Unclassified sudden infant death (USID) is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant that remains unexplained after thorough case investigation including performance of a complete autopsy and review of the circumstances of death and the clinical history. When the infant is below 1 year of age and with onset of the fatal episode apparently occurring during sleep, this is referred to as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). USID and SIDS remain poorly understood despite the identification of several environmental and some genetic risk factors. In this study, we investigated genetic risk factors involved in the autonomous nervous system in 195 Dutch USID/SIDS cases and 846 Dutch, age-matched healthy controls. Twenty-five DNA variants from 11 genes previously implicated in the serotonin household or in the congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, of which some have been associated with SIDS before, were tested. Of all DNA variants considered, only the length variation of the polyalanine repeat in exon 3 of the PHOX2B gene was found to be statistically significantly associated with USID/SIDS in the Dutch population after multiple test correction. Interestingly, our data suggest that contraction of the PHOX2B exon 3 polyalanine repeat that we found in six of 160 SIDS and USID cases and in six of 814 controls serves as a probable genetic risk factor for USID/SIDS at least in the Dutch population. Future studies are needed to confirm this finding and to understand the functional effect of the polyalanine repeat length variation, in particular contraction, in exon 3 of the PHOX2B gene.

Autonomic nervous system, ANS, Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, CCHS, Genetic association, PHOX2B polyalanine repeat length, SNPs, single nucleotide polymorphisms, Sudden infant death syndrome, SIDS, Unexplained sudden infant death, USID
dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00414-013-0962-0, hdl.handle.net/1765/63659
International Journal of Legal Medicine (Print)
Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)

Liebrechts-Akkerman, G, Liu, F, Lao Grueso, O, Ooms, A.H.A.G, van Duijn, K, Vermeulen, M, … Kayser, M.H. (2014). PHOX2B polyalanine repeat length is associated with sudden infant death syndrome and unclassified sudden infant death in the Dutch population. International Journal of Legal Medicine (Print), 128(4), 621–629. doi:10.1007/s00414-013-0962-0