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Development. 2004 Nov;131(21):5503-13. Epub 2004 Oct 6.

Mice expressing a dominant-negative Ret mutation phenocopy human Hirschsprung disease and delineate a direct role of Ret in spermatogenesis.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The Ret receptor tyrosine kinase mediates physiological signals of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family ligands (GFLs) and is essential for postnatal survival in mice. It is implicated in a number of human diseases and developmental abnormalities. Here, we describe our analyses of mice expressing a Ret mutant (RetDN) with diminished kinase activity that inhibits wild-type Ret activity, including its activation of AKT. All RetDN/+ mice died by 1 month of age and had distal intestinal aganglionosis reminiscent of Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) in humans. The RetDN/+ proximal small intestine also had severe hypoganglionosis and reduction in nerve fiber density, suggesting a potential mechanism for the continued gastric dysmotility in postsurgical HSCR patients. Unlike Ret-null mice, which have abnormalities in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, the RetDN/+ mice only had defects in the parasympathetic nervous system. A small proportion of RetDN/+ mice had renal agenesis, and the remainder had hypoplastic kidneys and developed tubulocystic abnormalities postnatally. Postnatal analyses of the testes revealed a decreased number of germ cells, degenerating seminiferous tubules, maturation arrest and apoptosis, indicating a crucial role for Ret in early spermatogenesis.

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