Gene-environment interactions in inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis

Ming Hsi Wang, Jean Paul Achkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has long been known to have genetic risk factors because of increased prevalence in the relatives of affected individuals. However, genome-wide association studies have only explained limited heritability in IBD. The observed globally rising incidence of IBD has implicated the role of environmental factors. The hidden unexplained heritability remains to be explored. Recent findings: Recent aggregate evidence has highlighted the extent and nature of host genome-microbiome associations, a key next step in understanding the mechanisms of pathogenesis in IBD. An individual's gut microbiota is shaped not only by genetic but also by environmental factors like diet. Minimizing exposure of the intestinal lumen to selected food items has shown to prolong the remission state of IBD. Among a genetically susceptible host, the shift of gut microbiota (or 'dysbiosis') can lead to increasing the susceptibility to IBD. With the advances in high-throughput large-scale 'omics' technologies in combination with creative data mining and system biology-based network analyses, the complexity of biological functional networks behind the cause of IBD has become more approachable. Therefore, the hidden heritability in IBD has become more explainable, and can be attributable to the changing environmental factors, epigenetic modifications, and gene-host microbial ('in-vironmental') or gene-extrinsic environmental interactions. Summary: This review discusses the perspectives of relevance to clinical translation with emphasis on gene-environment interactions. No doubt, the use of system-based approaches will lead to the development of alternative, and hopefully better, diagnostic, prognostic, and monitoring tools in the management of IBD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-282
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Gastroenterology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 24 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Exposome
  • Gene-environmental interactions
  • Gut microbiota
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Logic regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Medicine(all)


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