Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is a complex genetic disease characterized by absence of ganglia in the intestine. HSCR etiology can be explained by a unique combination of genetic alterations: rare coding variants, predisposing haplotypes and Copy Number Variation (CNV). Approximately 18% of patients have additional anatomical malformations or neurological symptoms (HSCR-AAM). Pinpointing the responsible culprits within a CNV is challenging as often many genes are affected. Therefore, we selected candidate genes based on gene enrichment strategies using mouse enteric nervous system transcriptomes and constraint metrics. Next, we used a zebrafish model to investigate whether loss of these genes affects enteric neuron development in vivo. This study included three groups of patients, two groups without coding variants in disease associated genes: HSCR-AAM and HSCR patients without associated anomalies (HSCR-isolated). The third group consisted of all HSCR patients in which a confirmed pathogenic rare coding variant was identified. We compared these patient groups to unaffected controls. Predisposing haplotypes were determined, confirming that every HSCR subgroup had increased contributions of predisposing haplotypes, but their contribution was highest in isolated HSCR patients without RET coding variants. CNV profiling proved that specifically HSCR-AAM patients had larger Copy Number (CN) losses. Gene enrichment strategies using mouse enteric nervous system transcriptomes and constraint metrics were used to determine plausible candidate genes located within CN losses. Validation in zebrafish using CRISPR/Cas9 targeting confirmed the contribution of UFD1L, TBX2, SLC8A1, and MAPK8 to ENS development. In addition, we revealed epistasis between reduced Ret and Gnl1 expression and between reduced Ret and Tubb5 expression in vivo. Rare large CN losses—often de novo—contribute to HSCR in HSCR-AAM patients. We proved the involvement of six genes in enteric nervous system development and Hirschsprung disease.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
PT is funded by the Theme-based Research scheme [grant number T12C-714/14-R] and CT by the Health Medical Research Fund [HMRF 06171636]. RH was funded by a grant from the Sophia Foundation [grant nr. S14-33]. The salary of KM was paid by S14-33. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
© 2021 Kuil et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.