Scientific Explanation

Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) is a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body. The major features of this condition include mild to moderate mental retardation, distinctive facial features, sleep disturbances, and behavioral problems. Smith-Magenis syndrome affects an estimated 1 in 25,000 individuals.
 
The syndrome is due to an abnormality in the short (p) arm of chromosome 17 and is sometimes called the 17p- syndrome.
 
Smith-Magenis syndrome is a chromosomal condition related to chromosome 17. Most people with SMS have a deletion of genetic material from a specific region of chromosome 17 (17p11.2). Although this region contains multiple genes, recently researchers discovered that the loss of one particular gene the retinoic acid induced 1 or RAI1 is responsible for most of the characteristic features of this condition. Also, other genes within the chromosome 17 contribute to the variability and severity of the clinical features. The loss of other genes in the deleted region may help explain why the features of Smith-Magenis syndrome vary among affected individuals. A small percentage of people with Smith-Magenis syndrome have a mutation in the RAI1 gene instead of a chromosomal deletion.
 
These deletions and mutations lead to the production of an abnormal or nonfunctional version of the RAI1 protein. RAI1 is a transcription factor involved in communication messages between DNA and RNA. The groups led by James Lupski (Baylor College of Medicine) and Sarah Elsea (Virginia Commonwealth University) are in the process of studying the exact function of this gene in relation to Smith Magenis Syndrome.
 
SMS is typically not inherited. This condition usually results from a genetic change that occurs during the formation of reproductive cells (eggs or sperm) or in early fetal development. People with Smith-Magenis syndrome most often have no history of the condition in their family.

Additional information