Genotype-based phenotyping heralds a new taxonomy for inflammatory bowel disease

Gastroenterology Unit, University of Oxford, Gibson Laboratories, Radcliffe Infirmary, Woodstock Road, Oxford, UK OX2 6QX.
Current Opinion in Gastroenterology (Impact Factor: 4.29). 08/2003; 19(4):327-35. DOI: 10.1097/00001574-200307000-00002
Source: PubMed


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has traditionally been categorized as either ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease on the basis of clinical, radiologic, and histologic criteria. Within these diseases, however, significant heterogeneity is observed, suggesting the existence of phenotypic subtypes, based on features such as location and behavior of disease. Evidence for a possible genetic basis of these subgroups first emerged in the 1990s from epidemiologic studies in multiply affected families. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetics of IBD, in particular the identification of NOD2/CARD15, have provided the opportunity to explore the genetic basis for this heterogeneity. This article reviews recent studies investigating the contribution of genetics to IBD phenotype. Although many of the genes remain unidentified, the emerging data suggests that IBD comprises a heterogeneous family of oligogenic inflammatory disorders in which the specific clinical manifestations of disease in any individual are determined by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. These data have validated the approach of classifying patients into accurately defined clinical subgroups, and they raise the possibility that a genetic basis for the observed disease heterogeneity may account for the discrepant findings from earlier genetic studies. A future molecular classification will provide the framework to understanding the different biologic mechanisms that underlie the clinical subgroups of IBD and, by patient stratification, permit the unraveling of the complex interaction between the genetic and environmental causes of disease.

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    ABSTRACT: Evidence is accumulating that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to ulcerative colitis. The most consistent genetic associations have been shown for the MHC locus HLA Class II alleles, but the interleukin-1 family of genes and the multidrug resistance gene MDR1 have also been implicated as genetic susceptibility factors for the development of disease. In addition, there is a relationship between ulcerative colitis and bacterial flora, with an increased number of adherent Bacteroides spp. and Enterobacteriaceae spp. present in inflamed bowel segments. Conversely, cigarette smoking and appendectomy have both been shown to protect against the development of ulcerative colitis. Despite our improved understanding of the genetics and inflammatory mechanisms that underpin this disease, however, the etiology and pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis remain undefined. The diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is being aided by recent advances in diagnostic strategies, including the detection of fecal and serologic markers and the use of wireless capsule endoscopy, but, in the absence of a pathognomonic marker, the definition of this disease remains based on well-established clinical, endoscopic and histologic criteria. In particular, it is difficult to discriminate ulcerative colitis from other forms of colitis, including Crohn's disease, and there seems to be a growing overlap of pathophysiologic processes between ulcerative colitis and post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome. Patients who remain indeterminate between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease also continue to be a diagnostic challenge.
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    ABSTRACT: The genetic revolution has been with us for over a decade now. We have yet to see this impacting the care of patients except in a few rare examples. However, progress has been made in the field of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that could soon be translated to the bedside, both in terms of predicting the disease course as well as in the response to therapy. IBD traditionally has been classified as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, with 10% of patients classified as having indeterminate colitis on the basis of clinical, radiologic, endoscopic, and histologic findings. However, this traditional view is now being challenged. Developments in genetics and serological markers, as well as an appreciation of the disease course, have led to an understanding that IBD is a heterogeneous group of diseases with some common genetic and environmental factors but different clinical manifestations in terms of disease behavior, location, and response to treatment. Data are now emerging that may allow us to more objectively select the correct therapy for the correct patient, rather than the current approach, which is based on clinical experience backed up by a less-than-perfect evidence base. In this article, we will review the evidence for this.
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