Abstract

Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is the most common cause of neonatal intestinal obstruction. It is characterized by the absence of ganglia in the nerve plexuses of the lower gastrointestinal tract. So far, three common disease-susceptibility variants at the RET, SEMA3 and NRG1 loci have been detected through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in Europeans and Asians to understand its genetic etiologies. Here we present a trans-ethnic meta-analysis of 507 HSCR cases and 1191 controls, combining all published GWAS results on HSCR to fine-map these loci and narrow down the putatively causal variants to 99% credible sets. We also demonstrate that the effects of RET and NRG1 are universal across European and Asian ancestries. In contrast, we detected a European-specific association of a low-frequency variant, rs80227144, in SEMA3 [odds ratio (OR) = 5.2, P =4.7 × 10−10]. Conditional analyses on the lead SNPs revealed a secondary association signal, corresponding to an Asian-specific, low-frequency missense variant encoding RET p.Asp489Asn (rs9282834, conditional OR = 20.3, conditional P =4.1 × 10−14). When in trans with the RET intron 1 enhancer risk allele, rs9282834 increases the risk of HSCR from 1.1 to 26.7. Overall, our study provides further insights into the genetic architecture of HSCR and has profound implications for future study designs.

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