Differences in manifestations of Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and Loeys-Dietz syndrome
Many different heritable connective tissue disorders (HCTD) have been described over the past decades. These syndromes often affect the connective tissue of various organ systems, including heart, blood vessels, skin, joints, bone, eyes, and lungs. The discovery of these HCTD was followed by the identification of mutations in a wide range of genes encoding structural proteins, modifying enzymes, or components of the TGFβ-signaling pathway. Three typical examples of HCTD are Marfan syndrome (MFS), Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), and Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS). These syndromes show some degree of phenotypical overlap of cardiovascular, skeletal, and cutaneous features. MFS is typically characterized by cardiovascular, ocular, and skeletal manifestations and is caused by heterozygous mutations in FBN1, coding for the extracellular matrix (ECM) protein fibrillin-1. The most common cardiovascular phenotype involves aortic aneurysm and dissection at the sinuses of Valsalva. LDS is caused by mutations in TGBR1/2, SMAD2/3, or TGFB2/3, all coding for components of the TGFβ-signaling pathway. LDS can be distinguished from MFS by the unique presence of hypertelorism, bifid uvula or cleft palate, and widespread aortic and arterial aneurysm and tortuosity. Compared to MFS, LDS cardiovascular manifestations tend to be more severe. In contrast, no association is reported between LDS and the presence of ectopia lentis, a key distinguishing feature of MFS. Overlapping features between MFS and LDS include scoliosis, pes planus, anterior chest deformity, spontaneous pneumothorax, and dural ectasia. EDS refers to a group of clinically and genetically heterogeneous connective tissue disorders and all subtypes are characterized by variable abnormalities of skin, ligaments and joints, blood vessels, and internal organs. Typical presenting features include joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility, and tissue fragility. Up to one quarter of the EDS patients show aortic aneurysmal disease. The latest EDS nosology distinguishes 13 subtypes. Many phenotypic features show overlap between the different subtypes, which makes the clinical diagnosis rather difficult and highlights the importance of molecular diagnostic confirmation.