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Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Mar 15;22(6):1206-17. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds528. Epub 2013 Jan 2.

Tcof1 acts as a modifier of Pax3 during enteric nervous system development and in the pathogenesis of colonic aganglionosis.

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Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 E. 50th Street, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA.


Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is a human congenital disorder, defined by the absence of ganglia from variable lengths of the colon. These ganglia comprise the enteric nervous system (ENS) and are derived from migratory neural crest cells (NCCs). The inheritance of HSCR is complex, often non-Mendelian and characterized by variable penetrance. Although extensive research has identified many key players in the pathogenesis of Hirschsprung disease, a large number of cases remain genetically undefined. Therefore, additional unidentified genes or modifiers must contribute to the etiology and pathogenesis of Hirschsprung disease. We have discovered that Tcof1 may be one such modifier. Haploinsufficiency of Tcof1 in mice results in a reduction of vagal NCCs and their delayed migration along the length of the gut during early development. This alone, however, is not sufficient to cause colonic aganglionosis as alterations in the balance of NCC proliferation and differentiation ensures NCC colonize the entire length of the gut of Tcof1(+/-) mice by E18.5. In contrast, Tcof1 haploinsufficiency is able to sensitize Pax3(+/-) mice to colonic aganglionosis. Although, Pax3 heterozygous mice do not show ENS defects, compound Pax3;Tcof1 heterozygous mice exhibit cumulative apoptosis which severely reduces the NCC population that migrates into the foregut. In addition, the proliferative capacity of these NCC is also diminished. Taken together with the opposing effects of Pax3 and Tcof1 on NCC differentiation, the synergistic haploinsufficiency of Tcof1 and Pax3 results in colonic aganglionosis in mice and may contribute to the pathogenesis of Hirschsprung disease.

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