Gastrointestinal Dysmotility in MNGIE: From thymidine phosphorylase enzyme deficiency to altered interstitial cells of Cajal

Rana Yadak, Marjolein Breur, Marianna Bugiani

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Background: MNGIE is a rare and fatal disease in which absence of the enzyme thymidine phosphorylase induces systemic accumulation of thymidine and deoxyuridine and secondary mitochondrial DNA alterations. Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are frequently reported in MNGIE patients, however, they are not resolved with the current treatment interventions. Recently, our understanding of the GI pathology has increased, which rationalizes the pursuit of more targeted therapeutic strategies. In particular, interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) play key roles in GI physiology and are involved in the pathogenesis of the GI dysmotility. However, understanding of the triggers of ICC deficits in MNGIE is lacking. Herein, we review the current knowledge about the pathology of GI dysmotility in MNGIE, discuss potential mechanisms in relation to ICC loss/dysfunction, remark on the limited contribution of the current treatments, and propose intervention strategies to overcome ICC deficits. Finally, we address the advances and new research avenues offered by organoids and tissue engineering technologies, and propose schemes to implement to further our understanding of the GI pathology and utility in regenerative and personalized medicine in MNGIE. Conclusion: Interstitial cells of Cajal play key roles in the physiology of the gastrointestinal motility. Evaluation of their status in the GI dysmotility related to MNGIE would be valuable for diagnosis of MNGIE. Understanding the underlying pathological and molecular mechanisms affecting ICC is an asset for the development of targeted prevention and treatment strategies for the GI dysmotility related to MNGIE.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalOrphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2019


  • CIPO
  • Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
  • HSCT
  • ICC
  • Interstitial cells of Cajal
  • Intestinal organoids
  • Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy

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