A genetic study of Hirschsprung disease

Am J Hum Genet. 1990 Mar;46(3):568-80.


Hirschsprung disease, or congenital aganglionic megacolon, is commonly assumed to be a sex-modified multifactorial trait. To test this hypothesis, complex segregation analysis was performed on data on 487 probands and their families. Demographic information on probands and the recurrence risk to relatives of probands are presented. An increased sex ratio (3.9 male:female) and an elevated risk to sibs (4%), as compared with the population incidence (0.02%), are observed, with the sex ratio decreasing and the recurrence risk to sibs increasing as the aganglionosis becomes more extensive. Down syndrome was found at an increased frequency among affected individuals but not among their unaffected sibs, and the increase was not associated with maternal age. Complex segregation analysis was performed on these family data. The families were classified into separate categories by extent of aganglionosis. For cases with aganglionosis beyond the sigmoid colon, the mode of inheritance is compatible with a dominant gene with incomplete penetrance, while for cases with aganglionosis extending no farther than the sigmoid colon, the inheritance pattern is equally likely to be either multifactorial or due to a recessive gene with very low penetrance. A model of gene action with random effects during morphogenesis is compatible with our observations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hirschsprung Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors