Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome associated with abnormalities of the skin, fingernails, and tongue. Other clinical manifestations may include epiphora, lung fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, osteoporosis, and a predisposition to develop a variety of malignancies. The clinical picture often resembles that of a premature aging syndrome and tissues affected are those with a high cell turnover. DC has been linked to mutations in at least four distinct genes, three of which have been identified. The product of these genes, dyskerin, the telomerase RNA (TERC), and the catalytic unit of telomerase (TERT) are part of a ribonucleoprotein complex, the telomerase enzyme, that is essential for the elongation and maintenance of chromosome ends or telomeres. All patients with DC have excessively short telomeres, indicating that the underlying defect in these individuals is an inability to maintain the telomeres. The purpose of the current review is to highlight recent insights into the molecular pathogenesis of DC. We discuss the impact these findings have on our current understanding of telomere function and maintenance, and on the diagnosis, management, and treatment of patients with conditions caused by dysfunctional telomeres.
reticular pigmentation, dystrophy, leukoplakia, malignancy, Hoyeraal-Hreidarsson Syndrome, mutations
Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8125, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA.