Hirschsprung disease: Insights on genes, penetrance, and prenatal diagnosis

Xiao Jing Wang, Michael Camilleri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The objective of this mini-review is to provide insights on the advances in the understanding of the genetic variants associated with different manifestations of Hirschsprung disease, which may present with a range of denervation from a short segment of colon to total colonic and small bowel or extensive aganglionosis. A recent article in this journal documented potential gene variants involved in long-segment Hirschsprung disease in 23 patients. Gene variants were identified using a 31-gene panel of genes related to Hirschsprung disease or enteric neural crest cell development, as previously reported in the literature. The study identified potentially harmful variants in eight genes across 13 patients, with a detection rate of 56.5% (13/23 patients). Five patients had pathologic variants in RET, NRG1, and L1CAM, and the remainder were considered variants of unknown significance. The authors attempted prenatal diagnosis of Hirschsprung disease utilizing an amniocentesis sample obtained for advanced maternal age in a family with a known deleterious RET mutation, manifested in the father (long-segment Hirschsprung disease) and older daughter (total colonic aganglionosis). The fetus had the same RET variant but, after several years of follow-up, has not developed any symptoms of Hirschsprung disease, supporting the conclusion that this RET mutation is an autosomal dominant gene with incomplete penetrance. This experience suggests that genetic counseling is appropriate to carefully assess the justification of prenatal testing, especially, when the phenotype of long-segment Hirschsprung disease is so variable and the disease is potentially curable with surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13732
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • exome sequencing
  • long segment
  • short segment
  • total aganglionosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology


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