Gut 62:1795-1805 doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303956
  • Recent advances in basic science

Monogenic diseases associated with intestinal inflammation: implications for the understanding of inflammatory bowel disease

  1. Holm H Uhlig
  1. Correspondence to Dr H Uhlig, Translational Gastroenterology Unit, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine and Children's Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 9DU, England, UK; holm.uhlig{at}
  • Received 21 January 2013
  • Revised 2 April 2013
  • Accepted 23 April 2013


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), encompassing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, has multifactorial aetiology with complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Over 150 genetic loci are associated with IBD. The genetic contribution of the majority of those loci towards explained heritability is low. Recent studies have reported an increasing spectrum of human monogenic diseases that can present with IBD-like intestinal inflammation. A substantial proportion of patients with those genetic defects present with very early onset of intestinal inflammation. The 40 monogenic defects with IBD-like pathology selected in this review can be grouped into defects in intestinal epithelial barrier and stress response, immunodeficiencies affecting granulocyte and phagocyte activity, hyper- and autoinflammatory disorders as well as defects with disturbed T and B lymphocyte selection and activation. In addition, there are defects in immune regulation affecting regulatory T cell activity and interleukin (IL)-10 signalling. Related to the variable penetrance of the IBD-like phenotype, there is a likely role for modifier genes and gene–environment interactions. Treatment options in this heterogeneous group of disorders range from anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive therapy to blockade of tumour necrosis factor α and IL-1β, surgery, haematopoietic stem cell transplantation or gene therapy. Understanding of prototypic monogenic ‘orphan’ diseases cannot only provide treatment options for the affected patients but also inform on immunological mechanisms and complement the functional understanding of the pathogenesis of IBD.