Human families with chromosomal rearrangements at 2q31, where the human HOXD locus maps, display mesomelic dysplasia, a severe shortening and bending of the limb. In mice, the dominant Ulnaless inversion of the HoxD cluster produces a similar phenotype suggesting the same origin for these malformations in humans and mice. Here we engineer 1 Mb inversion including the HoxD gene cluster, which positioned Hoxd13 close to proximal limb enhancers. Using this model, we show that these enhancers contact and activate Hoxd13 in proximal cells, inducing the formation of mesomelic dysplasia. We show that a secondary Hoxd13 null mutation in-cis with the inversion completely rescues the alterations, demonstrating that ectopic HOXD13 is directly responsible for this bone anomaly. Single-cell expression analysis and evaluation of HOXD13 binding sites suggests that the phenotype arises primarily by acting through genes normally controlled by HOXD13 in distal limb cells. Altogether, these results provide a conceptual and mechanistic framework to understand and unify the molecular origins of human mesomelic dysplasia associated with 2q31.
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