Background and Aims: Crohn's disease [CD] is a chronic inflammatory disease with unpredictable behaviour. More than half of CD patients eventually develop complications such as stenosis, for which they then require endoscopic dilatation or surgery, as no anti-fibrotic drugs are currently available. We aim to identify disease-modifying genes associated with fibrostenotic CD. Methods: We performed a within-case analysis comparing 'extreme phenotypes' using the Immunochip and replication of the top single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs] with Agena Bioscience in two independent case-control cohorts totalling 322 cases with fibrostenotis [recurrent after surgery] and 619 cases with purely inflammatory CD. Results: Combined meta-analysis resulted in a genome-wide significant signal for SNP rs11861007 [p = 6.0910-11], located on chromosome 16, in lncRNA RP11-679B19.1, an lncRNA of unknown function, and close to exon 9 of the WWOX gene, which codes for WW domain-containing oxidoreductase. We analysed mRNA expression of TGF-ß and downstream genes in ileocecal resection material from ten patients with and without the WWOX risk allele. Patients carrying the risk allele [A] showed enhanced colonic expression of TGF-ß compared to patients homozygous for the wild-type [G] allele [p = 0.0079]. Conclusion: We have identified a variant in WWOX and in lncRNA RP11-679B19.1 as a diseasemodifying genetic variant associated with recurrent fibrostenotic CD and replicated this association in an independent cohort. WWOX can potentially play a crucial role in fibrostenosis in CD, being positioned at the crossroads of inflammation and fibrosis.

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Keywords Crohn's disease, Fibrosis, Genetics
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Journal Journal of Crohn's and Colitis
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Visschedijk, M, Spekhorst, L.M, Cheng, S.C, van Loo, E.S. (Ellen S.), Dianne Jansen, B.H. (B. H.), Blokzijl, T, … Festen, E.A.M. (2018). Genomic and expression analyses identify a disease-modifying variant for Fibrostenotic Crohn's disease. Journal of Crohn's and Colitis, 12(5), 582–588. doi:10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjy001