Mucosal Genomics Implicate Lymphocyte Activation and Lipid Metabolism in Refractory Environmental Enteric Dysfunction

Yael Haberman, Najeeha T. Iqbal, Sudhir Ghandikota, Indika Mallawaarachchi, Braun Tzipi Braun, Phillip J. Dexheimer, Najeeb Rahman, Rotem Hadar, Kamran Sadiq, Zubair Ahmad, Romana Idress, Junaid Iqbal, Sheraz Ahmed, Aneeta Hotwani, Fayyaz Umrani, Lubaina Ehsan, Greg Medlock, Sana Syed, Chris Moskaluk, Jennie Z. MaAnil G. Jegga, Sean R. Moore*, Syed Asad Ali*, Lee A. Denson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) limits the Sustainable Development Goals of improved childhood growth and survival. We applied mucosal genomics to advance our understanding of EED. Methods: The Study of Environmental Enteropathy and Malnutrition (SEEM) followed 416 children from birth to 24 months in a rural district in Pakistan. Biomarkers were measured at 9 months and tested for association with growth at 24 months. The duodenal methylome and transcriptome were determined in 52 undernourished SEEM participants and 42 North American controls and patients with celiac disease. Results: After accounting for growth at study entry, circulating insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and ferritin predicted linear growth, whereas leptin correlated with future weight gain. The EED transcriptome exhibited suppression of antioxidant, detoxification, and lipid metabolism genes, and induction of anti-microbial response, interferon, and lymphocyte activation genes. Relative to celiac disease, suppression of antioxidant and detoxification genes and induction of antimicrobial response genes were EED-specific. At the epigenetic level, EED showed hyper-methylation of epithelial metabolism and barrier function genes, and hypo-methylation of immune response and cell proliferation genes. Duodenal coexpression modules showed association between lymphocyte proliferation and epithelial metabolic genes and histologic severity, fecal energy loss, and wasting (weight-for-length/height Z < -2.0). Leptin was associated with expression of epithelial carbohydrate metabolism and stem cell renewal genes. Immune response genes were attenuated by giardia colonization. Conclusions: Children with reduced circulating IGF-1 are more likely to experience stunting. Leptin and a gene signature for lymphocyte activation and dysregulated lipid metabolism are implicated in wasting, suggesting new approaches for EED refractory to nutritional intervention., Number: NCT03588013. (

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2055-2071.e0
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropometrics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Intestine
  • RNA Sequencing


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