Germline RET mutations are responsible for different inherited disorders: Hirschsprung disease (congenital aganglionic megacolon), caused by loss of function mutations, familial medullary thyroid carcinoma and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, caused by gain of function mutations. Intriguingly, some RET mutations, including C620R, are associated with both types of diseases. To investigate the dual role of such RET mutations, a mouse model with a targeted mutation ret(C620R) was generated. ret(C620R/C620R) offspring die during the first postnatal day, and show kidney agenesis and intestinal aganglionosis. Decreased outgrowth of the Ret-positive cells was observed in ret(C620R/C620R) neuronal cell cultures, which is suggestive of an impaired migration, proliferation or survival of the Ret-expressing cells. Electronmicroscopy revealed the absence of membrane-bound Ret in ret(C620R/C620R) cells as compared to ret(+/+) and ret(+/C620R) cells. On the other hand, aged ret(+/C620R) mice develop precancerous lesions in the adrenal gland or in the thyroid. Our results suggest that the ret(C620R) mutation has a loss of function effect in homozygotes and exhibits a dominant gain of function effect with low penetrance causing hyperplasia in heterozygotes.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.