Obstructed defecation - an enteric neuropathy? An exploratory study of patient samples
Purpose Although various strategies exist for chronic constipation therapy, the pathogenesis of chronic constipation is still not completely understood. The aim of this exploratory experimental study is to elucidate alterations of the autonomous enteric nervous system at the molecular level in patients with obstructed defecation, who represent one of the most predominant groups of constipated patients. Methods Full-thickness rectal wall samples of patients with obstructed defecation were analyzed and compared with controls. Differential gene expression analyses by RNA-Seq transcriptome profiling were performed and gene expression profiles were assigned to gene ontology pathways by application of different biological libraries. Results Analysis of the transcriptome showed that genes associated with the enteric nervous system functions were significantly downregulated in patients with obstructed defecation. These affected functions included developmental processes and synaptic transmission. Conclusions Our results therefore indicate that obstructed defecation may represent an enteric neuropathy, comparable to Hirschsprung disease and slow-transit constipation.