Human AGR2 Deficiency Causes Mucus Barrier Dysfunction and Infantile Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Al-Shaibi AA., Abdel-Motal UM., Hubrack SZ., Bullock AN., Al-Marri AA., Agrebi N., Al-Subaiey AA., Ibrahim NA., Charles AK., COLORS in IBD-Qatar Study Group None., Elawad M., Uhlig HH., Lo B.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: The gastrointestinal epithelium plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis with the gut microbiome. Mucins are essential for intestinal barrier function and serve as a scaffold for antimicrobial factors. Mucin 2 (MUC2) is the major intestinal gel-forming mucin produced predominantly by goblet cells. Goblet cells express anterior gradient 2 (AGR2), a protein disulfide isomerase that is crucial for proper processing of gel-forming mucins. Here, we investigated 2 siblings who presented with severe infantile-onset inflammatory bowel disease. METHODS: We performed whole-genome sequencing to identify candidate variants. We quantified goblet cell numbers using H&E histology and investigated the expression of gel-forming mucins, stress markers, and goblet cell markers using immunohistochemistry. AGR2-MUC2 binding was evaluated using co-immunoprecipitation. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress regulatory function of mutant AGR2 was examined by expression studies in Human Embryonic Kidney 293T (HEK293T) using tunicamycin to induce ER stress. RESULTS: Both affected siblings were homozygous for a missense variant in AGR2. Patient biopsy specimens showed reduced goblet cells; depletion of MUC2, MUC5AC, and MUC6; up-regulation of AGR2; and increased ER stress. The mutant AGR2 showed reduced capacity to bind MUC2 and alleviate tunicamycin-induced ER stress. CONCLUSIONS: Phenotype-genotype segregation, functional experiments, and the striking similarity of the human phenotype to AGR2-/- mouse models suggest that the AGR2 missense variant is pathogenic. The Mendelian deficiency of AGR2, termed "Enteropathy caused by AGR2 deficiency, Goblet cell Loss, and ER Stress" (EAGLES), results in a mucus barrier defect, the inability to mitigate ER stress, and causes infantile-onset inflammatory bowel disease.