Idiopathic achalasia is characterized by the absence of peristalsis secondary to loss of neurons in the myenteric plexus that hampers proper relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. Achalasia can be considered a multifactorial disorder as it occurs in related individuals and is associated with HLA class II genes, thereby suggesting genetic influence. We used microarray technology and advanced in-silico functional analyses to perform the first genome-wide expression profiling of mRNA in tissue samples from 12 achalasia and 5 control patients. It revealed 1,728 differentially expressed genes, of these, 837 (48.4%) were up-regulated in cases. In particular, genes participating to the smooth muscle contraction biological function were mostly up-regulated. Functional analysis revealed a significant enrichment of neuronal/muscular and neuronal/immunity processes. Upstream regulatory analysis of 180 genes involved in these processes suggested TLR4 and IL18 as critical key-players. Two functional gene networks were significantly over-represented: one involved in organ morphology, skeletal muscle system development and function, and neurological diseases, and the other participating in cell morphology, humoral immune response and cellular movement. These results highlight on pivotal genes that may play critical roles in neuronal/muscular and neuronal/immunity processes, and that may contribute to the onset and development of achalasia.
- Journal Article