Mucosal Inflammatory and Wound Healing Gene Programs Reveal Targets for Stricturing Behavior in Pediatric Crohn's Disease

J Crohns Colitis. 2020 Aug 8;jjaa166. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjaa166. Online ahead of print.


Background and aims: Ileal strictures are the major indication for resective surgery in Crohn's disease (CD). We aimed to define ileal gene programs present at diagnosis linked with future stricturing behavior during five year follow-up, and to identify potential small molecules to reverse these gene signatures.

Methods: Antimicrobial serologies and pre-treatment ileal gene expression were assessed in a representative subset of 249 CD patients within the RISK multicenter pediatric CD inception cohort study, including 113 that are unique to this report. These data were used to define genes associated with stricturing behavior and for model testing to predict stricturing behavior. A bioinformatics approach to define small molecules which may reverse the stricturing gene signature was applied.

Results: 19 of the 249 patients developed isolated B2 stricturing behavior during follow-up, while 218 remained B1 inflammatory. Using deeper RNA sequencing than in our prior report, we have now defined an inflammatory gene signature including an oncostatin M co-expression signature, tightly associated with extra-cellular matrix (ECM) gene expression in those who developed stricturing complications. We further computationally prioritize small molecules targeting macrophage and fibroblast activation and angiogenesis which may reverse the stricturing gene signature. A model containing ASCA and CBir1 serologies and a refined eight ECM gene set was significantly associated with stricturing development by year five after diagnosis (AUC (95th CI) = 0.82 (0.7-0.94)).

Conclusion: An ileal gene program for macrophage and fibroblast activation is linked to stricturing complications in treatment naïve pediatric CD, and may inform novel small molecule therapeutic approaches.

Keywords: ileum; pediatric Crohn Disease; small molecule; surgery; transcriptome.