The Ret receptor tyrosine kinase mediates physiological signals of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family ligands (GFLs) and is essential for postnatal survival in mice. It is implicated in a number of human diseases and developmental abnormalities. Here, we describe our analyses of mice expressing a Ret mutant (RetDN) with diminished kinase activity that inhibits wild-type Ret activity, including its activation of AKT. All RetDN/+ mice died by 1 month of age and had distal intestinal aganglionosis reminiscent of Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) in humans. The RetDN/+ proximal small intestine also had severe hypoganglionosis and reduction in nerve fiber density, suggesting a potential mechanism for the continued gastric dysmotility in postsurgical HSCR patients. Unlike Ret-null mice, which have abnormalities in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, the RetDN/+ mice only had defects in the parasympathetic nervous system. A small proportion of RetDN/+ mice had renal agenesis, and the remainder had hypoplastic kidneys and developed tubulocystic abnormalities postnatally. Postnatal analyses of the testes revealed a decreased number of germ cells, degenerating seminiferous tubules, maturation arrest and apoptosis, indicating a crucial role for Ret in early spermatogenesis.
- Hirschsprung disease