The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is complex and consists of multiple organs with unique functions. Rare gene variants can cause congenital malformations of the human GI tract, although the molecular basis of these has been poorly studied. We identified a patient with compound-heterozygous variants in RFX6 presenting with duodenal malrotation and atresia, implicating RFX6 in development of the proximal intestine. To identify how mutations in RFX6 impact intestinal patterning and function, we derived induced pluripotent stem cells from this patient to generate human intestinal organoids (HIOs). We identified that the duodenal HIOs and human tissues had mixed regional identity, with gastric and ileal features. CRISPR-mediated correction of RFX6 restored duodenal identity. We then used gain- and loss-of-function and transcriptomic approaches in HIOs and Xenopus embryos to identify that PDX1 is a downstream transcriptional target of RFX6 required for duodenal development. However, RFX6 had additional PDX1-independent transcriptional targets involving multiple components of signaling pathways that are required for establishing early regional identity in the GI tract. In summary, we have identified RFX6 as a key regulator in intestinal patterning that acts by regulating transcriptional and signaling pathways.

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