RNA-seq implicates deregulation of the immune system in the pathogenesis of diverticulitis

Kathleen M. Schieffer, Christine S. Choi, Scott Emrich, Leonard Harris, Sue Deiling, Dipti M. Karamchandani, Anna Salzberg, Yuka I. Kawasawa, Gregory S. Yochum, Walter A. Koltun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Individuals with diverticula or outpouchings of the colonic mucosa and submucosa through the colonic wall have diverticulosis, which is usually asymptomatic. In 10-25% of individuals, the diverticula become inflamed, resulting in diverticulitis. Very little is known about the pathophysiology or gene regulatory pathways involved in the development of diverticulitis. To identify these pathways, we deep sequenced RNAs isolated from full-thickness sections of sigmoid colon from diverticulitis patients and control individuals. Specifically for diverticulitis cases, we analyzed tissue adjacent to areas affected by chronic disease. Since the tissue was collected during elective sigmoid resection, the disease was in a quiescent state. A comparison of differentially expressed genes found that gene ontology (GO) pathways associated with the immune response were upregulated in diverticulitis patients compared with nondiverticulosis controls. Next, weighted gene coexpression network analysis was performed to identify the interaction among coexpressed genes. This analysis revealed RASAL3, SASH3, PTPRC, and INPP5D as hub genes within the brown module eigengene, which highly correlated (r = 0.67, P = 0.0004) with diverticulitis. Additionally, we identified elevated expression of downstream interacting genes. In summary, transcripts associated with the immune response were upregulated in adjacent tissue from the sigmoid colons of chronic, recurrent diverticulitis patients. Further elucidating the genetic or epigenetic mechanisms associated with these alterations can help identify those at risk for chronic disease and may assist in clinical decision management. New & Noteworthy By using an unbiased approach to analyze transcripts expressed in unaffected colonic tissues adjacent to those affected by chronic diverticulitis, our study implicates that a defect in the immune response may be involved in the development of the disease. This finding expands on the current data that suggest the pathophysiology of diverticulitis is mediated by dietary, age, and obesity-related factors. Further characterizing the immunologic differences in diverticulitis may better inform clinical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G277-G284
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Diverticulitis
  • Immune system
  • RNA-seq
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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