Ileal Gene Expression Data from Crohn’s Disease Small Bowel Resections Indicate Distinct Clinical Subgroups


Background and Aims: Heterogeneity in Crohn’s disease [CD] provides a challenge for the development of effective therapies. Our goal was to define a unique molecular signature for severe, refractory CD to enable precision therapy approaches to disease treatment and to facilitate earlier intervention in complicated disease. Methods:  We analysed clinical metadata, genetics, and transcriptomics from uninvolved ileal tissue from CD patients who underwent a single small bowel resection. We determined transcriptional risk scores, cellular signatures, and mechanistic pathways that define patient subsets in refractory CD. Results:  Within refractory CD, we found three CD patient subgroups [CD1, CD2, and CD3]. Compared with CD1, CD3 was enriched for subjects with increased disease recurrence after first surgery [OR = 6.78, p = 0.04], enhanced occurrence of second surgery [OR = 5.07, p = 0.016], and presence of perianal CD [OR = 3.61, p = 0.036]. The proportion of patients with recurrence-free survival was smaller in CD3 than in CD1 (p = 0.02, median survival time [months] in CD1 = 10 and CD3 = 6). Overlaying differential gene expression between CD1 and CD3 on CD subgroup-associated genetic polymorphisms identified 174 genes representing both genetic and biological differences between the CD subgroups. Pathway analyses using this unique gene signature indicated eukaryotic initiation factor 2 [eIF2] and cyclic adenosine monophosphate [cAMP] signalling to be dominant pathways associated with CD3. Furthermore, the severe, refractory subset, CD3, was associated with a higher transcriptional risk score and enriched with eosinophil and natural killerT [NKT] cell gene signatures. Conclusion:  We characterized a subset of severe, refractory CD patients who may need more aggressive treatment after first resection and who are likely to benefit from targeted therapy based on their genotype and tissue gene expression signature.

Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis