Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) stands as a model for genetic dissection of complex diseases. In this model, a major gene, RET, is involved in most if not all cases of isolated (i.e., nonsyndromic) HSCR, in conjunction with other autosomal susceptibility loci under a multiplicative model. HSCR susceptibility alleles can harbor either heterozygous coding sequence mutations or, more frequently, a polymorphism within intron 1, leading to a hypomorphic RET allele. On the other hand, about 30% of HSCR are syndromic. Hitherto, the disease causing gene has been identified for eight Mendelian syndromes with HSCR: congenital central hypoventilation (CCHS), Mowat-Wilson (MWS), Bardet-Biedl (BBS), Shah-Waardenburg (WS4), cartilage-hair-hypoplasia (CHH), Smith-Lemli-Opitz (SLO), Goldberg-Sprintzsen (GSS), and hydrocephalus due to congenital stenosis of the aqueduct of sylvius (HSAS). According to the HSCR syndrome, the penetrance of HSCR trait varies from 5 to 70%. Trisomy 21 (T21) also predisposes to HSCR. We were able to collect a series of 393 patients affected by CCHS (n = 173), WS4 (n = 24), BBS (n = 51), MWS (n = 71), T21 (n = 46), and mental retardation (MR) with HSCR (n = 28). For each syndrome, we studied the RET locus in two subgroups of patients; i.e., with or without HSCR. We genotyped the RET locus in 393 patients among whom 195 had HSCR, and compared the distribution of alleles and genotypes within the two groups for each syndrome. RET acts as a modifier gene for the HSCR phenotype in patients with CCHS, BBS, and Down syndrome, but not in patients with MWS and WS4. The frequent, low penetrant, predisposing allele of the RET gene can be regarded as a risk factor for the HSCR phenotype in CCHS, BBS, and Down syndrome, while its role is not significant in MWS and WS4. These data highlight the pivotal role of the RET gene in both isolated and syndromic HSCR. Hum Mutat 28(8), 790–796, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.