Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome is characterized by multiple noncancerous (benign) skin tumors, particularly on the face, neck, and upper chest. These growths typically first appear in a person's twenties or thirties and become larger and more numerous over time. Affected individuals also have an increased chance of developing cysts in the lungs and an abnormal accumulation of air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax) that may result in the collapse of a lung. Additionally, Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome is associated with an elevated risk of developing cancerous or noncancerous kidney tumors. Other types of cancer have also been reported in affected individuals, but it is unclear whether these tumors are actually a feature of Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome.
Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome is rare; its exact incidence is unknown. This condition has been reported in more than 400 families.
Mutations in the FLCN gene cause Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. This gene provides instructions for making a protein called folliculin. The normal function of this protein is unknown, but researchers believe that it may act as a tumor suppressor. Tumor suppressors prevent cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way. Mutations in the FLCN gene may interfere with the ability of folliculin to restrain cell growth and division, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and the formation of noncancerous and cancerous tumors. Researchers have not determined how FLCN mutations increase the risk of lung problems, such as pneumothorax.
This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered FLCN gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. In most cases, an affected person inherits the mutation from one affected parent. Less commonly, the condition results from a new mutation in the gene and occurs in people with no history of the disorder in their family.
Having a single mutated copy of the FLCN gene in each cell is enough to cause the skin tumors and lung problems associated with Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. However, both copies of the FLCN gene are often mutated in the kidney tumors that occur with this condition. One of the mutations is inherited from a parent, while the other occurs by chance in a kidney cell during a person's lifetime. These genetic changes disable both copies of the FLCN gene, which allows kidney cells to divide uncontrollably and form tumors.
Other Names for This Condition
- fibrofolliculomas with trichodiscomas and acrochordons
- Hornstein-Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome
- Hornstein-Knickenberg syndrome
Additional Information & Resources
Genetic Testing Information
Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center
Research Studies from ClinicalTrials.gov
Catalog of Genes and Diseases from OMIM
Scientific Articles on PubMed
- Happle R. Hornstein-Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome: a renaming and reconsideration. Am J Med Genet A. 2012 Jun;158A(6):1247-51. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.35330. Epub 2012 May 11. Citation on PubMed
- Khoo SK, Giraud S, Kahnoski K, Chen J, Motorna O, Nickolov R, Binet O, Lambert D, Friedel J, Lévy R, Ferlicot S, Wolkenstein P, Hammel P, Bergerheim U, Hedblad MA, Bradley M, Teh BT, Nordenskjöld M, Richard S. Clinical and genetic studies of Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. J Med Genet. 2002 Dec;39(12):906-12. Erratum in: J Med Genet. 2003 Feb;40(2):150.. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
- Nickerson ML, Warren MB, Toro JR, Matrosova V, Glenn G, Turner ML, Duray P, Merino M, Choyke P, Pavlovich CP, Sharma N, Walther M, Munroe D, Hill R, Maher E, Greenberg C, Lerman MI, Linehan WM, Zbar B, Schmidt LS. Mutations in a novel gene lead to kidney tumors, lung wall defects, and benign tumors of the hair follicle in patients with the Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. Cancer Cell. 2002 Aug;2(2):157-64. Citation on PubMed
- Pavlovich CP, Walther MM, Eyler RA, Hewitt SM, Zbar B, Linehan WM, Merino MJ. Renal tumors in the Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Dec;26(12):1542-52. Citation on PubMed
- Sattler EC, Steinlein OK. Birt-Hogg-Dubé Syndrome. 2006 Feb 27 [updated 2020 Jan 30]. In: Adam MP, Ardinger HH, Pagon RA, Wallace SE, Bean LJH, Stephens K, Amemiya A, editors. GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2020. Available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1522/ Citation on PubMed
- Schmidt LS, Nickerson ML, Warren MB, Glenn GM, Toro JR, Merino MJ, Turner ML, Choyke PL, Sharma N, Peterson J, Morrison P, Maher ER, Walther MM, Zbar B, Linehan WM. Germline BHD-mutation spectrum and phenotype analysis of a large cohort of families with Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. Am J Hum Genet. 2005 Jun;76(6):1023-33. Epub 2005 Apr 25. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
- Schmidt LS, Warren MB, Nickerson ML, Weirich G, Matrosova V, Toro JR, Turner ML, Duray P, Merino M, Hewitt S, Pavlovich CP, Glenn G, Greenberg CR, Linehan WM, Zbar B. Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, a genodermatosis associated with spontaneous pneumothorax and kidney neoplasia, maps to chromosome 17p11.2. Am J Hum Genet. 2001 Oct;69(4):876-82. Epub 2001 Aug 30. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
- Warren MB, Torres-Cabala CA, Turner ML, Merino MJ, Matrosova VY, Nickerson ML, Ma W, Linehan WM, Zbar B, Schmidt LS. Expression of Birt-Hogg-Dubé gene mRNA in normal and neoplastic human tissues. Mod Pathol. 2004 Aug;17(8):998-1011. Citation on PubMed