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Publications (16)

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    Ivana Matera · Marco Musso · Paola Griseri · [...] · Merce Garcia-Barcelo
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RET common variants are associated with Hirschsprung disease (HSCR; colon aganglionosis), a congenital defect of the enteric nervous system. We analysed a well-known HSCR-associated RET haplotype that encompasses linked alleles in coding and non-coding/regulatory sequences. This risk-haplotype correlates with reduced level of RET expression when compared to the wild-type counterpart. As allele-specific expression (ASE) contributes to phenotypic variability in health and disease, we investigated whether RET ASE could contribute to the overall reduction of RET mRNA detected in carriers. We tested heterozygous neuroblastoma cell-lines, ganglionic gut tissues (18 HSCR and 14 non-HSCR individuals) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs; 16 HSCR and 14 non-HSCR individuals). Analysis of the data generated by SNaPshot and Pyrosequencing revealed that the RET risk-haplotype is significantly more expressed in gut than in PBMCs (p = 0.0045). No ASE difference was detected between patients and controls, irrespective of the sample type. Comparison of total RET expression levels between gut samples with and without ASE, correlated reduced RET expression with preferential transcription from the RET risk-haplotype. Non-random RET ASE occurs in ganglionic gut regardless of the disease status. RET ASE should not be excluded as a disease mechanism acting during development.
    Full-text Article · Jul 2013 · Human Mutation
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hirschsprung disease (HSCR, aganglionic megacolon) is a complex and heterogeneous disease with an incidence of 1 in 5000 live births. Despite the multifactorial determination of HSCR in the vast majority of cases, there is a monogenic subgroup for which private rare RET coding sequence mutations with high penetrance are found (45% of HSCR familial cases). An asymmetrical parental origin is observed for RET coding sequence mutations with a higher maternal inheritance. A parent-of-origin effect is usually assumed. Here we show that a differential reproductive rate for males and females also leads to an asymmetrical parental origin, which was never considered as a possible explanation till now. In the case of HSCR, we show a positive association between penetrance of the mutation and parental transmission asymmetry: no parental transmission asymmetry is observed in sporadic RET CDS mutation carrier cases for which penetrance of the mutation is low, whereas a parental transmission asymmetry is observed in affected sib-pairs for which penetrance of the mutation is higher. This allows us to conclude that the explanation for this parental asymmetry is that more severe mutations have resulted in a differential reproductive rate between male and female carriers.
    Full-text Article · Mar 2012 · European Journal of Human Genetics
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    Simon E Kenny · Paul K H Tam · Mercè Garcia-Barcelo
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR) is characterized by absence of the enteric nervous system in a variable portion of the distal gut. Affected infants usually present in the days after birth with bowel obstruction. Despite surgical advances, long-term outcomes remain variable. In the last 2 decades, great advances have been made in understanding the genes and molecular biological mechanisms that underlie the disease. In addition, our understanding of normal enteric nervous system development and how motility develops in the developing fetus and infant has also increased. This review aims to draw these strands together to explain the developmental and biological basis of HSCR, and how this knowledge may be used in the future to aid children with HSCR.
    Full-text Article · Aug 2010 · Seminars in Pediatric Surgery
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    Eileen Sproat Emison · Merce Garcia-Barcelo · Elizabeth A Grice · [...] · Aravinda Chakravarti
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The major gene for Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) encodes the receptor tyrosine kinase RET. In a study of 690 European- and 192 Chinese-descent probands and their parents or controls, we demonstrate the ubiquity of a >4-fold susceptibility from a C-->T allele (rs2435357: p = 3.9 x 10(-43) in European ancestry; p = 1.1 x 10(-21) in Chinese samples) that probably arose once within the intronic RET enhancer MCS+9.7. With in vitro assays, we now show that the T variant disrupts a SOX10 binding site within MCS+9.7 that compromises RET transactivation. The T allele, with a control frequency of 20%-30%/47% and case frequency of 54%-62%/88% in European/Chinese-ancestry individuals, is involved in all forms of HSCR. It is marginally associated with proband gender (p = 0.13) and significantly so with length of aganglionosis (p = 7.6 x 10(-5)) and familiality (p = 6.2 x 10(-4)). The enhancer variant is more frequent in the common forms of male, short-segment, and simplex families whereas multiple, rare, coding mutations are the norm in the less common and more severe forms of female, long-segment, and multiplex families. The T variant also increases penetrance in patients with rare RET coding mutations. Thus, both rare and common mutations, individually and together, make contributions to the risk of HSCR. The distribution of RET variants in diverse HSCR patients suggests a "cellular-recessive" genetic model where both RET alleles' function is compromised. The RET allelic series, and its genotype-phenotype correlations, shows that success in variant identification in complex disorders may strongly depend on which patients are studied.
    Full-text Article · Jul 2010 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
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    Xiaoping Miao · Thomas Yuk-Yu Leon · Elly Sau-Wai Ngan · [...] · Mercè Garcia-Barceló
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Receptor tyrosine kinase (RET) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are associated with the Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR). We investigated whether the amount of RET expressed in the ganglionic gut of human was dependent on the genotype of three regulatory SNPs (-5G>A rs10900296 and -1A>C rs10900297 in the promoter, and C>T rs2435357 in intron 1). We examined the effects of three regulatory SNPs on the RET gene expression in 67 human ganglionic gut tissues using quantitative real-time PCR. Also, 315 Chinese HSCR patients and 325 ethnically matched controls were genotyped for the three SNPs by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and direct sequencing. The expression of RET mRNA in human gut tissue did indeed correlate with the genotypes of the individuals. The lowest RET expression was found for those individuals homozygous for the three risk alleles (A-C-T/A-C-T), and the highest for those homozygous for the 'wild-type' counterpart (G-A-C/G-A-C), with expression values ranging from 218.32±125.69 (mean ± SE) in tissues from individuals carrying G-A-C/G-A-C to 31.42±8.42 for individuals carrying A-C-T/A-C-T (P 5 0.018). As expected, alleles -5A, -1C and intron 1 T were associated with HSCR (P 5 5.94 × 10-31, 3.12 3 10-24 and 5.94 × 10-37, respectively) as was the haplotype encompassing the three associated alleles (A-C-T) when compared with the wild-type counterpart G-A-C (χ2 5 155.29, P « 0.0001). To our knowledge, this is the first RET expression genotype-phenotype correlation study conducted on human subjects to indicate common genetic variants in the regulatory region of RET may play a role in mediating susceptibility to HSCR, by conferring a significant reduction of the RET expression. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected] /* */
    Full-text Article · Apr 2010 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To evaluate the impact of genetic testing in the management of familial multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A patients. Retrospective study. University teaching hospital, Hong Kong. Twenty-two patients from eight multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A families underwent prophylactic total thyroidectomy based on a positive RET mutation genetic testing. All mutations were located at codon 634 of exon 11. Nineteen patients had preoperative basal serum calcitonin measured, and the 12 with normal levels had pentagastrin stimulation tests. Preoperative thyroid ultrasound examination was performed for 17 patients. There were 13 females and 9 males with a median age of 25.1 (range, 6.1-71.9) years. Histopathology revealed medullary thyroid carcinoma in 17 (77%), C-cell hyperplasia in four (18%), and normal pathology in one (5%) of the patients. Five patients with either C-cell hyperplasia or normal pathology were among the youngest (age range, 6-9 years). The youngest patient with medullary thyroid carcinoma was nearly 9 years old. The median size of medullary thyroid carcinomas was 8.3 (range, 0.1-18) mm, but there were no lymph node metastases. Of 15 patients with normal basal calcitonin levels, 10 had medullary thyroid carcinoma, though two tested negative with the pentagastrin-stimulated calcitonin assay. Five of six patients with normal preoperative ultrasonographic examinations had medullary thyroid carcinoma. Three (14%) of the patients were prescribed long-term calcium and vitamin D supplementation. After a median follow-up of 49 (range, 13-128) months, no patient had recurrence of medullary thyroid carcinoma. Genetic testing has replaced conventional biochemical and radiological modalities to identifying multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A carriers, in order to offer them prophylactic thyroidectomy. Chinese multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A patients with codon 634 mutation seem to have less aggressive forms of medullary thyroid carcinoma, for whom prophylactic thyroidectomy can be considered at the age of 8 years.
    Full-text Article · Oct 2009 · Hong Kong medical journal = Xianggang yi xue za zhi / Hong Kong Academy of Medicine
  • Paul K H Tam · Mercè Garcia-Barceló
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR) is a developmental disorder characterized by the absence of ganglion cells in the lower digestive tract. Aganglionosis is attributed to a disorder of the enteric nervous system (ENS) whereby ganglion cells fail to innervate the lower gastrointestinal tract during embryonic development. HSCR is a complex disease that results from the interaction of several genes and manifests with low, sex-dependent penetrance and variability in the length of the aganglionic segment. The genetic complexity observed in HSCR can be conceptually understood in light of the molecular and cellular events that take place during the ENS development. DNA alterations in any of the genes involved in the ENS development may interfere with the colonization process, and represent a primary etiology for HSCR. This review will focus on the genes known to be involved in HSCR pathology, how they interact, and on how technology advances are being employed to uncover the pathological processes underlying this disease.
    Article · Jul 2009 · Pediatric Surgery International
  • Mercè Garcia-Barcelo · Sebastian K King · Xiaoping Miao · [...] · Paul K.H. Tam
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Slow transit constipation (STC) affects up to 3% of all children and is an increasingly recognized cause of chronic constipation in children. We conducted a pilot study to investigate whether genes encoding neurotransmitters (TAC1, TAC3, VIP, NOS1) and receptors (TACR1, TACR2, TACR3, KIT) could be responsible for STC. One hundred seventeen tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), distributed among the candidate genes, were selected from HapMap data and genotyped using Sequenom (San Diego, CA) technology in 35 affected families. Evaluation of association was performed by transmission disequilibrium test and multilocus analysis. Five SNPs (rs3771863, rs4580655, rs11722288, rs4563545, and rs3782221) in the TACR1, TACR3, KIT, and NOS1 genes were found to be potentially associated with STC, although the significance of these results does not withstand correction for multiple testing. Our data indicate that 5 SNPs in the NOS1, TACR1, TACR3, and KIT genes could be involved in STC, especially rs3771863 in intron 1 of TACR1, which showed the highest association.
    Article · May 2007 · Journal of Pediatric Surgery
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuroblastoma is a common pediatric tumor that is derived from improperly differentiated neural crest cells (NCC). We recently revealed that endocrine gland-derived vascular endothelial growth factor/prokineticin-1 (EG-VEGF/Prok-1) is a key factor mediating the growth and differentiation of enteric NCCs during development. In this report, we further elucidate its role in neuroblastoma progression. We studied the expression and copy number of EG-VEGF/Prok-1 receptors (PK-R1 and PK-R2) in 26 neuroblastoma tumors by real-time reverse transcription-PCR and immunohistochemical analysis. Implication of EG-VEGF/Prok-1 signaling in neuroblastoma progression was further shown in a neuroblastoma cell line (SK-N-SH). We found that all neuroblastoma samples from stages II to IV expressed both PK-R1 and PK-R2. Kruskall-Wallis signed rank tests revealed that the expression level of PK-R1 transcript is associated with the stages and metastasis of the neuroblastoma (P<0.05), and PK-R2 is persistently higher in advanced-stage neuroblastoma samples. About 38% of the neuroblastoma tumors (10:26) possessed MYCN amplification, whereas no PK-R1 and PK-R2 amplifications were detected, suggesting that the overexpression of the receptors was not due to gene amplification. Subsequent functional studies showed that EG-VEGF/Prok-1 activates the Akt pathway to induce the proliferation of neuroblastoma cells. Targeted down-regulation studies revealed that EG-VEGF/Prok-1-mediated proliferation requires the presence of these two receptors, and that PK-R2 is essential for inhibiting apoptosis. In vitro migration and invasion assays also indicated that EG-VEGF/Prok-1 significantly enhances the cell migration/invasion of SK-N-SH. Our study has shown for the first time that aberrant EG-VEGF/Prok-1 signaling favors neuroblastoma progression and could be a potential target for future neuroblastoma treatment.
    Article · Mar 2007 · Clinical Cancer Research
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    Xiao Qi Wang · John M Luk · Mercè Garcia-Barcelo · [...] · Sheung Tat Fan
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide. We previously showed that aberrant mRNA splicing of the liver intestine-cadherin gene CDH17 in liver tissues was triggered by the specific constellation of two CDH17 single nucleotide polymorphisms (651T and IVS6+35G). CDH17 aberrant splicing was highly associated with tumor dissemination and shorter survival of HCC patients. Consequently, it is highly relevant to assess whether the presence of these single nucleotide polymorphisms in the general population represents a risk to the development of HCC. We conducted a case-control study including 164 HCC and 99 cirrhosis patients and 293 healthy controls. Genotyping was done by PCR and direct sequencing. Odds ratio (OR) and chi2 analysis were used to analyze genotypes and haplotypes. Genotypes 651TT [OR, 2.62; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.34-5.03] and IVS6+35 GG (OR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.04-3.62) were highly associated with HCC disease. The 651T (C>T) and IVS6+35G (A>G) alleles were also overrepresented in HCC patients and, in particular, the T-G haplotype was the most prevalent in HCC patients when compared with healthy controls (OR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.167-2.109; P=0.004), which was in agreement with the aberrant splicing observed in tumor tissues. There was no significant difference in genotype and allele frequencies between cirrhosis patients and controls. The functional T-G haplotype of CDH17 (651 C>T and IVS6+35A>G) is a genetic susceptibility factor for the development of HCC in a Chinese population.
    Full-text Article · Sep 2006 · Clinical Cancer Research
  • Xiaoqi Wang · John M. Luk · Merce Garcia-Barcelo · [...] · Sheung Tat Fan
    Article · Mar 2006 · Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
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    Mercè Garcia-Barceló · Man-Ting So · Danny Ko-Chun Lau · [...] · Paul Kwong-Hang Tam
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The combination of partial absence of the sacrum, anorectal anomalies, and presacral mass constitutes Currarino syndrome (CS), which is associated with mutations in HLXB9. We analyzed 5 CS families and 6 sporadic cases for HLXB9 mutations by direct sequencing. Potentially pathologic expansions of HLXB9 GCC repeats were analyzed in patients, 4 general populations [Chinese, Japanese, Yoruba, and Centre du Etude Polymorphisme Human (CEPH)] from the HapMap project, and 145 healthy Chinese. We identified 6 novel mutations affecting highly conserved residues (Ser185X, Trp215X, Ala26fs, Ala75fs, Met1Ile, and Arg273Cys). GCC allele and genotype distributions showed marked statistically significant differences. (GCC)11 was the most common allele overall; its frequency ranged from 90% in CEPH to 68% in Yoruba and 50% in Chinese and Japanese populations. (GCC)9 was almost as common as (GCC)11 in Chinese and Japanese populations, whereas its frequency was <10% in Yoruba and CEPH populations. The Yoruba population had the highest frequency of the largest alleles [(GCC)12 and (GCC)13], which were almost absent in the other groups. Lack of HLXB9 mutations in some patients and the presence of variable phenotypes suggest DNA alterations in HLXB9 noncoding regions and/or in other genes encoding HLXB9 regulatory molecules or protein partners. If HLXB9, like other homeobox genes, has a threshold beyond which triplet expansions are pathologic, those populations enriched with larger alleles would be at a higher risk. The data illustrate the importance of ethnicity adjustment if these polymorphic markers are to be used in association studies.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2006 · Clinical Chemistry
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    Mercè Garcia-Barcelo · Raymond W Ganster · Vincent C H Lui · [...] · Paul K H Tam
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the coding regions of receptor tyrosine kinase gene (RET) are associated with Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR, aganglionic megacolon). These SNPs, individually or combined, may act as a low penetrance susceptibility locus and/or be in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with another susceptibility locus located in RET regulatory regions. Because two RET promoter SNPs have been found associated with HSCR, in LD with HSCR-associated RET coding region haplotypes, their implication in the transcriptional regulation of RET is of major interest. Analysis of 172 sporadic HSCR patients also revealed the presence of HSCR-associated RET promoter SNPs in LD with the main coding region RET haplotype observed in Chinese patients. By using a weighted logistic regression approach, we determined that of all SNPs tested in our study, the promoter SNPs are the most correlated to the disease. Functional analysis of the RET promoter SNPs in the context of additional 5' regulatory regions demonstrated that the HSCR-associated alleles decrease RET transcription. These SNPs overlap a TTF-1 binding site and TTF-1-activated RET transcription is also decreased by the HSCR-associated SNPs. Moreover, we identified an HSCR patient with a Gly322Ser TTF-1 mutation that compromises activation of transcription from HSCR-associated RET promoter haplotypes. Interestingly, we show that the pattern of RET and TTF-1 expression is coincident in developing human gut. We also present a detailed profile of the RET gene in our population, which provides an insight into the higher incidence of the disease in China.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2005 · Human Molecular Genetics
  • Paul K H Tam · Mercè Garcia-Barcelo
    Article · Dec 2004 · Seminars in Pediatric Surgery
  • Paul K. H. Tam · Mercè Garcia-Barcelo
    Article · Nov 2004 · Seminars in Pediatric Surgery
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    Mercè Garcia-Barceló · Mai-Har Sham · Wing-Shan Lee · [...] · Paul Kwong-Hang Tam
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is a congenital disorder characterized by an absence of ganglion cells in the nerve plexuses of the lower digestive tract. HSCR has a complex pattern of inheritance and is sometimes associated with mutations in genes of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RET) and endothelin receptor B (EDNRB) signaling pathways, which are crucial for development of the enteric nervous system. Using PCR amplification and direct sequencing, we screened for mutations and polymorphisms in the coding regions and intron/exon boundaries of the RET, GDNF, EDNRB, and EDN3 genes of 84 HSCR patients and 96 ethnically matched controls. We identified 10 novel and 2 previously described mutations in RET, and 4 and 2 novel mutations in EDNRB and in EDN3, respectively. Potential disease-causing mutations were detected in 24% of the patients. The overall mutation rate was 41% in females and 19% in males (P = 0.06). RET mutations occurred in 19% of the patients. R114H in RET was the most prevalent mutation, representing 7% of the patients or 37% of the patients with RET mutations. To date, such a high frequency of a single mutation has never been reported in unrelated HSCR patients. Mutations in EDNRB, EDN3, and GDNF were found in four, two, and none of the patients, respectively. Two patients with mutations in genes of the EDNRB pathway also harbored a mutation in RET. Three novel and three reported polymorphisms were found in EDNRB, EDN3, and GDNF. This study identifies additional HSCR disease-causing mutations, some peculiar to the Chinese population, and represents the first comprehensive genetic analysis of sporadic HSCR disease in Chinese.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2004 · Clinical Chemistry