Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is a common congenital disorder characterized by aganglionosis of the gut. The seemingly unrelated multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), pheochromocytoma, and hyperparathyroidism. Yet, germline mutations in the RET proto-oncogene are associated with both MEN 2 and HSCR. In the former, gain-of-function mutations in a limited set of codons is found, whereas, in the latter, loss-of-function mutations are found. However, germline RET mutation is associated with only 3% of a population-based series of isolated HSCR, and little is known about susceptibility to sporadic MTC. We have found previously that specific haplotypes comprising RET coding single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) comprising exon 2 SNP A45A were strongly associated with HSCR, whereas haplotypes associated with exon 14 SNP S836S were associated with MTC. In this study, we describe three novel intron 1 SNPs, and, together with the coding SNP haplotypes, the data suggest the presence of distinct ancestral haplotypes for HSCR and sporadic MTC in linkage disequilibrium with a putative founding susceptibility locus/loci. The data are consistent with the presence of a very ancient, low-penetrance founder locus ∼20-30 kb upstream of SNP A45A, but the failure of the SNPs to span the locus presents challenges in modeling mode of transmission or ancestry. We postulate that this founding locus is germane to both isolated HSCR and MTC but also that different mutations in this locus would predispose to one or the other.
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