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1.  Specificity of the STAT4 Genetic Association for Severe Disease Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(5):e1000084.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. A polymorphism in the STAT4 gene has recently been established as a risk factor for SLE, but the relationship with specific SLE subphenotypes has not been studied. We studied 137 SNPs in the STAT4 region genotyped in 4 independent SLE case series (total n = 1398) and 2560 healthy controls, along with clinical data for the cases. Using conditional testing, we confirmed the most significant STAT4 haplotype for SLE risk. We then studied a SNP marking this haplotype for association with specific SLE subphenotypes, including autoantibody production, nephritis, arthritis, mucocutaneous manifestations, and age at diagnosis. To prevent possible type-I errors from population stratification, we reanalyzed the data using a subset of subjects determined to be most homogeneous based on principal components analysis of genome-wide data. We confirmed that four SNPs in very high LD (r2 = 0.94 to 0.99) were most strongly associated with SLE, and there was no compelling evidence for additional SLE risk loci in the STAT4 region. SNP rs7574865 marking this haplotype had a minor allele frequency (MAF) = 31.1% in SLE cases compared with 22.5% in controls (OR = 1.56, p = 10−16). This SNP was more strongly associated with SLE characterized by double-stranded DNA autoantibodies (MAF = 35.1%, OR = 1.86, p<10−19), nephritis (MAF = 34.3%, OR = 1.80, p<10−11), and age at diagnosis<30 years (MAF = 33.8%, OR = 1.77, p<10−13). An association with severe nephritis was even more striking (MAF = 39.2%, OR = 2.35, p<10−4 in the homogeneous subset of subjects). In contrast, STAT4 was less strongly associated with oral ulcers, a manifestation associated with milder disease. We conclude that this common polymorphism of STAT4 contributes to the phenotypic heterogeneity of SLE, predisposing specifically to more severe disease.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic disabling autoimmune disease, most commonly striking women in their thirties or forties. It can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including kidney disease, arthritis, and skin disorders. Prognosis varies greatly depending on these clinical features, with kidney disease and related characteristics leading to greater morbidity and mortality. It is also complex genetically; while lupus runs in families, genes increase one’s risk for lupus but do not fully determine the outcome. It is thought that the interactions of multiple genes and/or interactions between genes and environmental factors may cause lupus, but the causes and disease pathways of this very heterogeneous disease are not well understood. By examining relationships between subtypes of lupus and specific genes, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that the STAT4 gene, very recently identified as a lupus risk gene, predisposes specifically to severe manifestations of lupus, including kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC2377340  PMID: 18516230
2.  A risk haplotype of STAT4 for systemic lupus erythematosus is over-expressed, correlates with anti-dsDNA and shows additive effects with two risk alleles of IRF5 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(18):2868-2876.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototype autoimmune disease where genes regulated by type I interferon (IFN) are over-expressed and contribute to the disease pathogenesis. Because signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) plays a key role in the type I IFN receptor signaling, we performed a candidate gene study of a comprehensive set of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in STAT4 in Swedish patients with SLE. We found that 10 out of 53 analyzed SNPs in STAT4 were associated with SLE, with the strongest signal of association (P = 7.1 × 10−8) for two perfectly linked SNPs rs10181656 and rs7582694. The risk alleles of these 10 SNPs form a common risk haplotype for SLE (P = 1.7 × 10−5). According to conditional logistic regression analysis the SNP rs10181656 or rs7582694 accounts for all of the observed association signal. By quantitative analysis of the allelic expression of STAT4 we found that the risk allele of STAT4 was over-expressed in primary human cells of mesenchymal origin, but not in B-cells, and that the risk allele of STAT4 was over-expressed (P = 8.4 × 10−5) in cells carrying the risk haplotype for SLE compared with cells with a non-risk haplotype. The risk allele of the SNP rs7582694 in STAT4 correlated to production of anti-dsDNA (double-stranded DNA) antibodies and displayed a multiplicatively increased, 1.82-fold risk of SLE with two independent risk alleles of the IRF5 (interferon regulatory factor 5) gene.
PMCID: PMC2525501  PMID: 18579578
3.  Association of STAT4 with Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Korean Population 
Molecular Medicine  2007;13(9-10):455-460.
A recent study in the North American White population has documented the association of a common STAT4 haplotype (tagged by rs7574865) with risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus. To replicate this finding in the Korean population, we performed a case-control association study. We genotyped 67 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the STAT1 and STAT4 regions in 1123 Korean patients with RA and 1008 ethnicity-matched controls. The most significant four risk SNPs (rs11889341, rs7574865, rs8179673, and rs10181656 located within the third intron of STAT4) among 67 SNPs are identical with those in the North American study. All four SNPs have modest risk for RA susceptibility (odds ratio 1.21–1.27). A common haplotype defined by these markers (TTCG) carries significant risk for RA in Koreans [34 percent versus 28 percent, P = 0.0027, OR (95 percent CI) = 1.33 (1.10–1.60)]. By logistic regression analysis, this haplotype is an independent risk factor in addition to the classical shared epitope alleles at the HLA-DRB1 locus. There were no significant associations with age of disease onset, radiographic progression, or serologic status using either allelic or haplotypic analysis. Unlike several other risk genes for RA such as PTPN22, PADI4, and FCRL3, a haplotype of the STAT4 gene shows consistent association with RA susceptibility across Whites and Asians, suggesting that this risk haplotype predates the divergence of the major racial groups.
PMCID: PMC2014726  PMID: 17932559
4.  Association of TNFAIP3 Polymorphism with Susceptibility to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in a Japanese Population 
Recent genome-wide association studies demonstrated association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the TNFAIP3 region at 6q23 with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in European-American populations. In this study, we investigated whether SNPs in the TNFAIP3 region are associated with SLE also in a Japanese population. A case-control association study was performed on the SNPs rs13192841, rs2230926, and rs6922466 in 318 Japanese SLE patients and 444 healthy controls. Association of rs2230926 G allele with SLE was replicated in Japanese (allelic association P = .033, odds ratio [OR] 1.47, recessive model P = .023, OR 8.52). The association was preferentially observed in the SLE patients with nephritis. When the TNFAIP3 mRNA levels of the HapMap samples were examined using GENEVAR database, the presence of TNFAIP3 rs2230926 G allele was associated with lower mRNA expression of TNFAIP3 (P = .013). These results indicated that TNFAIP3 is a susceptibility gene to SLE both in the Caucasian and Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC2896654  PMID: 20617138
5.  High density genotyping of STAT4 gene reveals multiple haplotypic associations with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in different racial groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1085-1095.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2776081  PMID: 19333953
6.  Analysis of Gender Differences in Genetic Risk: Association of TNFAIP3 Polymorphism with Male Childhood-Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in the Japanese Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72551.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic multisystem autoimmune disorder influenced by genetic background and environmental factors. Our aim here was to replicate findings of associations between 7 of the implicated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5, BLK, STAT4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes with susceptibility to childhood-onset SLE in the Japanese population. In particular, we focused on gender differences in allelic frequencies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The 7 SNPs were genotyped using TaqMan assays in 75 patients with childhood-onset SLE and in 190 healthy controls. The relationship between the cumulative number of risk alleles and SLE manifestations was explored in childhood-onset SLE. Logistic regression was used to test the effect of each polymorphism on susceptibility to SLE, and Wilcoxon rank sum testing was used for comparison of total risk alleles. Data on rs7574865 in the STAT4 gene and rs9138 in SPP1 were replicated for associations with SLE when comparing cases and controls (corrected P values ranging from 0.0043 to 0.027). The rs2230926 allele of TNFAIP3 was associated with susceptibility to SLE in males, but after Bonferroni correction there were no significant associations with any of the other four SNPs in IRF5, BLK, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes. The cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE relative to healthy controls (P = 0.0000041). Male SLE patients had a slightly but significantly higher frequency of the TNFAIP3 (rs2230926G) risk allele than female patients (odds ratio [OR] = 4.05, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] = 1.46–11.2 P<0.05).
Associations of polymorphisms in STAT4 and SPP1 with childhood-onset SLE were confirmed in a Japanese population. Although these are preliminary results for a limited number of cases, TNFAIP3 rs2230926G may be an important predictor of disease onset in males. We also replicated findings that the cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE.
PMCID: PMC3758304  PMID: 24023622
7.  A candidate gene study of the type I interferon pathway implicates IKBKE and IL8 as risk loci for SLE 
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease in which the type I interferon pathway has a crucial role. We have previously shown that three genes in this pathway, IRF5, TYK2 and STAT4, are strongly associated with risk for SLE. Here, we investigated 78 genes involved in the type I interferon pathway to identify additional SLE susceptibility loci. First, we genotyped 896 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in these 78 genes and 14 other candidate genes in 482 Swedish SLE patients and 536 controls. Genes with P<0.01 in the initial screen were then followed up in 344 additional Swedish patients and 1299 controls. SNPs in the IKBKE, TANK, STAT1, IL8 and TRAF6 genes gave nominal signals of association with SLE in this extended Swedish cohort. To replicate these findings we extracted data from a genomewide association study on SLE performed in a US cohort. Combined analysis of the Swedish and US data, comprising a total of 2136 cases and 9694 controls, implicates IKBKE and IL8 as SLE susceptibility loci (Pmeta=0.00010 and Pmeta=0.00040, respectively). STAT1 was also associated with SLE in this cohort (Pmeta=3.3 × 10−5), but this association signal appears to be dependent of that previously reported for the neighbouring STAT4 gene. Our study suggests additional genes from the type I interferon system in SLE, and highlights genes in this pathway for further functional analysis.
PMCID: PMC3060320  PMID: 21179067
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon system; candidate gene study; single nucleotide polymorphism; IKBKE; IL8
8.  TLR7 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the 3' untranslated region and intron 2 independently contribute to systemic lupus erythematosus in Japanese women: a case-control association study 
The Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) gene, encoded on human chromosome Xp22.3, is crucial for type I interferon production. A recent multicenter study in East Asian populations, comprising Chinese, Korean and Japanese participants, identified an association of a TLR7 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) located in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR), rs3853839, with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), especially in males, although some difference was observed among the tested populations. To test whether additional polymorphisms contribute to SLE in Japanese, we systematically analyzed the association of TLR7 with SLE in a Japanese female population.
A case-control association study was conducted on eight tag SNPs in the TLR7 region, including rs3853839, in 344 Japanese females with SLE and 274 healthy female controls.
In addition to rs3853839, two SNPs in intron 2, rs179019 and rs179010, which were in moderate linkage disequilibrium with each other (r2 = 0.53), showed an association with SLE (rs179019: P = 0.016, odds ratio (OR) 2.02, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.15 to 3.54; rs179010: P = 0.018, OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.80 (both under the recessive model)). Conditional logistic regression analysis revealed that the association of the intronic SNPs and the 3' UTR SNP remained significant after we adjusted them for each other. When only the patients and controls carrying the risk genotypes at the 3' UTR SNPpositionwere analyzed, the risk of SLE was significantly increased when the individuals also carried the risk genotypes at both of the intronic SNPs (P = 0.0043, OR 2.45, 95% CI 1.31 to 4.60). Furthermore, the haplotype containing the intronic risk alleles in addition to the 3' UTR risk allele was associated with SLE under the recessive model (P = 0.016, OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.17 to 4.80), but other haplotypes were not associated with SLE.
The TLR7 intronic SNPs rs179019 and rs179010 are associated with SLE independently of the 3' UTR SNP rs3853839 in Japanese women. Our findings support a role of TLR7 in predisposition for SLE in Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC3132023  PMID: 21396113
9.  Association of STAT4 Polymorphism with Severe Renal Insufficiency in Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84450.
Lupus nephritis is a cause of significant morbidity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and its genetic background has not been completely clarified. The aim of this investigation was to analyze single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for association with lupus nephritis, its severe form proliferative nephritis and renal outcome, in two Swedish cohorts. Cohort I (n = 567 SLE cases, n =  512 controls) was previously genotyped for 5676 SNPs and cohort II (n = 145 SLE cases, n = 619 controls) was genotyped for SNPs in STAT4, IRF5, TNIP1 and BLK.
Case-control and case-only association analyses for patients with lupus nephritis, proliferative nephritis and severe renal insufficiency were performed. In the case-control analysis of cohort I, four highly linked SNPs in STAT4 were associated with lupus nephritis with genome wide significance with p = 3.7×10−9, OR 2.20 for the best SNP rs11889341. Strong signals of association between IRF5 and an HLA-DR3 SNP marker were also detected in the lupus nephritis case versus healthy control analysis (p <0.0001). An additional six genes showed an association with lupus nephritis with p <0.001 (PMS2, TNIP1, CARD11, ITGAM, BLK and IRAK1). In the case-only meta-analysis of the two cohorts, the STAT4 SNP rs7582694 was associated with severe renal insufficiency with p  = 1.6×10−3 and OR 2.22. We conclude that genetic variations in STAT4 predispose to lupus nephritis and a worse outcome with severe renal insufficiency.
PMCID: PMC3873995  PMID: 24386384
10.  Contribution of STAT4 gene single-nucleotide polymorphism to systemic lupus erythematosus in the Polish population 
Molecular Biology Reports  2012;39(9):8861-8866.
The STAT4 has been found to be a susceptible gene in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in various populations. There are evident population differences in the context of clinical manifestations of SLE, therefore we investigated the prevalence of the STAT4 G > C (rs7582694) polymorphism in patients with SLE (n = 253) and controls (n = 521) in a sample of the Polish population. We found that patients with the STAT4 C/G and CC genotypes exhibited a 1.583-fold increased risk of SLE incidence (95 % CI = 1.168–2.145, p = 0.003), with OR for the C/C versus C/G and G/G genotypes was 1.967 (95 % CI = 1.152–3.358, p = 0.0119). The OR for the STAT4 C allele frequency showed a 1.539-fold increased risk of SLE (95 % CI = 1.209–1.959, p = 0.0004). We also observed an increased frequency of STAT4 C/C and C/G genotypes in SLE patients with renal symptoms OR = 2.259 (1.365–3.738, p = 0.0014), (pcorr = 0.0238) and in SLE patients with neurologic manifestations OR = 2.867 (1.467–5.604, p = 0.0016), (pcorr = 0.0272). Moreover, we found a contribution of STAT4 C/C and C/G genotypes to the presence of the anti-snRNP Ab OR = 3.237 (1.667–6.288, p = 0.0003), (pcorr = 0.0051) and the presence of the anti-Scl-70 Ab OR = 2.665 (1.380–5.147, p = 0.0028), (pcorr = 0.0476). Our studies confirmed an association of the STAT4 C (rs7582694) variant with the development of SLE and occurrence of some clinical manifestations of the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11033-012-1752-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3404285  PMID: 22729903
SLE; STAT4; Polymorphism
11.  Association of IRF5 polymorphisms with activation of the interferon α pathway 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(3):611-617.
The genetic association of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility has been convincingly established. To gain understanding of the effect of IRF5 variation in individuals without SLE, a study was undertaken to examine whether such genetic variation predisposes to activation of the interferon α (IFNα) pathway.
Using a computer simulated approach, 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes of IRF5 were tested for association with mRNA expression levels of IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible genes and chemokines in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from individuals of European (CEU), Han Chinese (CHB), Japanese (JPT) and Yoruba Nigerian (YRI) backgrounds. IFN-inducible gene expression was assessed in LCLs from children with SLE in the presence and absence of IFNα stimulation.
The major alleles of IRF5 rs13242262 and rs2280714 were associated with increased IRF5 mRNA expression levels in the CEU, CHB+JPT and YRI samples. The minor allele of IRF5 rs10488631 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU (pc=0.0005, 0.01 and 0.04, respectively). A haplotype containing these risk alleles of rs13242262, rs10488631 and rs2280714 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU LCLs. In vitro studies showed specific activation of IFN-inducible genes in LCLs by IFNα.
SNPs of IRF5 in healthy individuals of a number of ethnic groups were associated with increased mRNA expression of IRF5. In European-derived individuals, an IRF5 haplotype was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression. Identifying individuals genetically predisposed to increased IFN-inducible gene and chemokine expression may allow early detection of risk for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3135414  PMID: 19854706
12.  STAT4 and the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
The New England journal of medicine  2007;357(10):977-986.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease with a substantial genetic component. Susceptibility to disease has been linked with a region on chromosome 2q.
We tested single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in and around 13 candidate genes within the previously linked chromosome 2q region for association with rheumatoid arthritis. We then performed fine mapping of the STAT1-STAT4 region in a total of 1620 case patients with established rheumatoid arthritis and 2635 controls, all from North America. Implicated SNPs were further tested in an independent case-control series of 1529 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis and 881 controls, all from Sweden, and in a total of 1039 case patients and 1248 controls from three series of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
A SNP haplotype in the third intron of STAT4 was associated with susceptibility to both rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. The minor alleles of the haplotype-defining SNPs were present in 27% of chromosomes of patients with established rheumatoid arthritis, as compared with 22% of those of controls (for the SNP rs7574865, P = 2.81×10-7; odds ratio for having the risk allele in chromosomes of patients vs. those of controls, 1.32). The association was replicated in Swedish patients with recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis (P = 0.02) and matched controls. The haplotype marked by rs7574865 was strongly associated with lupus, being present on 31% of chromosomes of case patients and 22% of those of controls (P = 1.87×10-9; odds ratio for having the risk allele in chromosomes of patients vs. those of controls, 1.55). Homozygosity of the risk allele, as compared with absence of the allele, was associated with a more than doubled risk for lupus and a 60% increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
A haplotype of STAT4 is associated with increased risk for both rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, suggesting a shared pathway for these illnesses.
PMCID: PMC2630215  PMID: 17804842
13.  Association of STAT4 Polymorphisms with Susceptibility to Type-1 Autoimmune Hepatitis in the Japanese Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71382.
Recent studies demonstrated an association of STAT4 polymorphisms with autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, indicating multiple autoimmune diseases share common susceptibility genes. We therefore investigated the influence of STAT4 polymorphisms on the susceptibility and phenotype of type-1 autoimmune hepatitis in a Japanese National Hospital Organization (NHO) AIH multicenter cohort study.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 460 individuals of Japanese origin including 230 patients with type-1 autoimmune hepatitis and 230 healthy controls was analyzed for two single nucleotide polymorphisms in the STAT4 gene (rs7574865, rs7582694). The STAT4 rs7574865T allele conferred risk for type-1 autoimmune hepatitis (OR = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.23–2.11; P = 0.001), and patients without accompanying autoimmune diseases exhibited an association with the rs7574865T allele (OR = 1.50, 95%CI = 1.13–1.99; P = 0.005). Detailed genotype-phenotype analysis of type-1 autoimmune hepatitis patients with (n = 44) or without liver cirrhosis (n = 186) demonstrated that rs7574865 was not associated with the development of liver cirrhosis and phenotype (biochemical data and the presence of auto-antibodies).
This is the first study to show a positive association between a STAT4 polymorphism and type-1 autoimmune hepatitis, suggesting that autoimmune hepatitis shares a gene commonly associated with risk for other autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3750035  PMID: 23990947
14.  Targeting transcription factor Stat4 uncovers a role for interleukin-18 in the pathogenesis of severe lupus nephritis in mice 
Kidney international  2010;79(4):452-463.
Polymorphisms in the transcription factor Stat4 gene have been implicated as risk factors for systemic lupus erythematosus. Although some polymorphisms have a strong association with autoantibodies and nephritis, their impact on pathophysiology is still unknown. To explore this further we used signal transducers and activators of transcription 4 (Stat4) knockout MRL/MpJ-Faslpr/Faslpr (MRL-Faslpr) mice and found that they did not differ in survival or renal function from Stat4-intact MRL-Faslpr mice. Circulating interleukin (IL)-18 levels, however, were elevated in Stat4-deficient compared to Stat4-intact mice, suggesting that this interleukin might contribute to the progression of lupus nephritis independent of Stat4. In a second approach, Stat4 antisense or missense oligonucleotides or vehicle were given to MRL-Faslpr mice with advanced nephritis. Each of these treatments temporarily ameliorated disease, although IL-18 was increased in each setting. Based on these findings, studies using gene transfer to overexpress IL-18 in MRL-Faslpr and IL-12p40/IL-23 knockout MRL-Faslpr mice reveal a critical role for IL-18 in mediating disease. Thus, the Stat4 and IL-12 (an activator of Stat4)-independent factor, IL-18, can drive autoimmune lupus nephritis in MRL-Faslpr mice. Temporarily blocking Stat4 during advanced nephritis ameliorates disease, suggesting a time-dependent compensatory proinflammatory mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3197226  PMID: 20980973
chronic glomerulonephritis; chronic inflammation; lupus nephritis
15.  Strong Evidence of a Combination Polymorphism of the Tyrosine Kinase 2 Gene and the Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 Gene as a DNA-Based Biomarker for Susceptibility to Crohn’s Disease in the Japanese Population 
Journal of Clinical Immunology  2009;29(6):815-825.
An association between susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and polymorphisms of both the tyrosine kinase 2 gene (TYK2) and the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 gene (STAT3) was examined in a Japanese population in order to identify the genetic determinants of IBD.
The study subjects comprised 112 patients with ulcerative colitis, 83 patients with Crohn’s disease (CD), and 200 healthy control subjects. Seven tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TYK2 and STAT3 were detected by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism.
The frequencies of a C allele and its homozygous C/C genotype at rs2293152 SNP in STAT3 in CD patients were significantly higher than those in control subjects (P = 0.007 and P = 0.001, respectively). Furthermore, out of four haplotypes composed of the two tag SNPs (rs280519 and rs2304256) in TYK2, the frequencies of a Hap 1 haplotype and its homozygous Hap 1/Hap1 diplotype were significantly higher in CD patients in comparison to those in control subjects (P = 0.023 and P = 0.024, respectively). In addition, the presence of both the C/C genotype at rs2293152 SNP in STAT3 and the Hap 1/Hap 1 diplotype of TYK2 independently contributes to the pathogenesis of CD and significantly increases the odds ratio to 7.486 for CD (P = 0.0008).
TYK2 and STAT3 are genetic determinants of CD in the Japanese population. This combination polymorphism may be useful as a new genetic biomarker for the identification of high-risk individuals susceptible to CD.
PMCID: PMC2788098  PMID: 19653082
TYK2; STAT3; polymorphisms; Crohn’s disease; candidate gene-based association study; DNA-based biomarker; Japanese population
16.  Cutting Edge: Autoimmune Disease Risk Variant of STAT4 Confers Increased Sensitivity to IFN-α in Lupus Patients In Vivo1 
Increased IFN-α signaling is a primary pathogenic factor in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). STAT4 is a transcription factor that is activated by IFN-α signaling, and genetic variation of STAT4 has been associated with risk of SLE and rheumatoid arthritis. We measured serum IFN-α activity and simultaneous IFN-α-induced gene expression in PBMC in a large SLE cohort. The risk variant of STAT4 (T allele; rs7574865) was simultaneously associated with both lower serum IFN-α activity and greater IFN-α-induced gene expression in PBMC in SLE patients in vivo. Regression analyses confirmed that the risk allele of STAT4 was associated with increased sensitivity to IFN-α signaling. The IFN regulatory factor 5 SLE risk genotype was associated with higher serum IFN-α activity; however, STAT4 showed dominant influence on the sensitivity of PBMC to serum IFN-α. These data provide biologic relevance for the risk variant of STAT4 in the IFN-α pathway in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2716754  PMID: 19109131
17.  Genetic Risk Factors in Lupus Nephritis and IgA Nephropathy – No Support of an Overlap 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10559.
IgA nephropathy (IgAN) and nephritis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are two common forms of glomerulonephritis in which genetic findings are of importance for disease development. We have recently reported an association of IgAN with variants of TGFB1. In several autoimmune diseases, particularly in SLE, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus have been shown to be important candidate genes. The aim of this study was to compare genetic variants from the TGFB1, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus with susceptibility to IgAN and lupus nephritis in two Swedish cohorts.
Patients and Methods
We genotyped 13 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in four genetic loci in 1252 DNA samples from patients with biopsy proven IgAN or with SLE (with and without nephritis) and healthy age- and sex-matched controls from the same population in Sweden.
Genotype and allelic frequencies for SNPs from selected genes did not differ significantly between lupus nephritis patients and SLE patients without nephritis. In addition, haplotype analysis for seven selected SNPs did not reveal a difference for the SLE patient groups with and without nephritis. Moreover, none of these SPNs showed a significant difference between IgAN patients and healthy controls. IRF5 and STAT4 variants remained significantly different between SLE cases and healthy controls. In addition, the data did not show an association of TRAF1-C5 polymorphism with susceptibility to SLE in this Swedish population.
Our data do not support an overlap in genetic susceptibility between patients with IgAN or SLE and reveal no specific importance of SLE associated SNPs for the presence of lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2866667  PMID: 20479942
18.  Association of Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms in JAK3, STAT4, and STAT6 With New Cardiovascular Events in Incident Dialysis Patients 
Increasing evidence supports a role for cell-mediated immunity in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in JAK3, STAT4, and STAT6 of the Janus kinase–signal transducer and activator of transcription (Jak-Stat) signal transduction pathway were examined for association with time to new cardiovascular events in incident dialysis patients from the Choices for Healthy Outcomes in Caring for End-Stage Renal Disease study.
Study Design
Prospective cohort study.
Setting & Participants
764 White (n=518) and Black (n=246) participants from 79 dialysis centers.
SNPs in JAK3, STAT4, and STAT6 selectedusing a pairwise approach to identify a maximally informative set of tag SNPs for populations of European and African descent.
Outcomes and Measurements
Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate unadjusted and multivariable adjusted hazard ratios (HR) for incident cardiovascular disease events after dialysis initiation associated with each race-specific SNP.
Two European tag SNPs (rs3212780 and rs3213409) were associated with new cardiovascular disease events in White patients in JAK3, with unadjusted HR 1.92 (p<0.001) and 1.82 (p=0.07), respectively. One dual-tag SNP (rs3212752) in JAK3 was associated with new cardiovascular events in White patients with unadjusted HR 2.09 (p<0.001) and in Black patients with HR 2.07 (p=0.007). SNP rs3213409 codes for a valine to isoleucine change at amino acid 722, a potentially functional mutation. SNPs in STAT4 and STAT6 were not associated with cardiovascular events after the initiation of dialysis.
This study does not provide direct evidence for the mechanism of increased risk. Replication in independent cohorts is necessary.
Genetic polymorphisms in the Jak-Stat signaling pathway are associated with an increased risk of new cardiovascular events in incident dialysis patients.
PMCID: PMC2744364  PMID: 19282076
dialysis; cardiovascular diseases; inflammation; genes
19.  Genes Associated with SLE Are Targets of Recent Positive Selection 
Autoimmune Diseases  2014;2014:203435.
The reasons for the ethnic disparities in the prevalence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the relative high frequency of SLE risk alleles in the population are not fully understood. Population genetic factors such as natural selection alter allele frequencies over generations and may help explain the persistence of such common risk variants in the population and the differential risk of SLE. In order to better understand the genetic basis of SLE that might be due to natural selection, a total of 74 genomic regions with compelling evidence for association with SLE were tested for evidence of recent positive selection in the HapMap and HGDP populations, using population differentiation, allele frequency, and haplotype-based tests. Consistent signs of positive selection across different studies and statistical methods were observed at several SLE-associated loci, including PTPN22, TNFSF4, TET3-DGUOK, TNIP1, UHRF1BP1, BLK, and ITGAM genes. This study is the first to evaluate and report that several SLE-associated regions show signs of positive natural selection. These results provide corroborating evidence in support of recent positive selection as one mechanism underlying the elevated population frequency of SLE risk loci and supports future research that integrates signals of natural selection to help identify functional SLE risk alleles.
PMCID: PMC3920976  PMID: 24587899
20.  Single-nucleotide polymorphisms and haplotype of CYP2E1 gene associated with systemic lupus erythematosus in Chinese population 
Cytochrome P-450 2E1 (CYP2E1) is an important member of the CYP superfamily, which is involved in the metabolism and activation of many low molecular weight toxic compounds. We tried to investigate the possible association of CYP2E1 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in a Chinese Han population.
The coding and flanking regions of the CYP2E1 gene were scanned for polymorphisms and tag SNPs were selected. A two-stage case-control study was performed to genotype a total of 876 SLE patients and 680 geographically matched healthy controls (265 cases and 288 controls in stage I and 611 cases and 392 controls in stage II). SLE associations of alleles, genotypes and haplotypes were tested by age and sex adjusted logistic regression. The gene transcription quantitation was carried out for peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples from 120 healthy controls.
Tag SNP rs2480256 was found significantly associated with SLE in both stages of the study. The "A" allele was associated with slightly higher risk (odds ratio (OR) = 1.165, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.073 to 1.265, P = 2.75E-4) and "A/A" genotype carriers were with even higher SLE risk (OR = 1.464 95% CI 1.259 to 1.702, P = 7.48E-7). When combined with another tag SNP rs8192772, we identified haplotype "rs8192772-rs2480256/TA" over presented in SLE patients (OR 1.407, 95% CI 1.182 to 1.675, P = 0.0001) and haplotype "TG" over presented in the controls (OR 0.771, 95% CI 0.667 to 0.890, P = 0.0004). The gene transcription quantitation analysis further proved the dominant effect of rs2480256 as the "A/A" genotype showed highest transcription.
Our results suggest the involvement of CYP2E1 as a susceptibility gene for SLE in the Chinese population.
PMCID: PMC3241355  PMID: 21281483
21.  Evidence for STAT4 as a Common Autoimmune Gene: rs7574865 Is Associated with Colonic Crohn's Disease and Early Disease Onset 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10373.
Recent studies demonstrated an association of STAT4 variants with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), indicating that multiple autoimmune diseases share common susceptibility genes. We therefore investigated the influence of STAT4 variants on the susceptibility and phenotype of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in a large patient and control cohort.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2704 individuals of Caucasian origin including 857 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), 464 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 1383 healthy, unrelated controls was analyzed for seven SNPs in the STAT4 gene (rs11889341, rs7574865, rs7568275, rs8179673, rs10181656, rs7582694, rs10174238). In addition, a detailed genotype-phenotype analysis was performed. Our analysis revealed an association of the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 with overall decreased susceptibility to CD (p = 0.047, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.74–0.99]). However, compared to CD patients carrying the wild type genotype, the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 was significantly associated with early CD onset (p = 0.021) and colonic CD (p = 0.008; OR = 4.60, 95% CI 1.63–12.96). For two other STAT4 variants, there was a trend towards protection against CD susceptibility (rs7568275, p = 0.058, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.74–1.00]; rs10174238, p = 0.057, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.75–1.00]). In contrast, we did not observe any association with UC susceptibility. Evidence for weak gene-gene interaction of STAT4 with the IL23R SNP rs11209026 was lost after Bonferroni correction.
Our results identified the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 as a disease-modifying gene variant in colonic CD. However, in contrast to SLE and RA, the effect of rs7574865 on CD susceptibility is only weak.
PMCID: PMC2861592  PMID: 20454450
22.  Genetically Determined Amerindian Ancestry Correlates with Increased Frequency of Risk Alleles for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(12):3722-3729.
To analyze if genetically determined Amerindian ancestry predicts the increased presence of risk alleles of known susceptibility genes for systemic lupus erythematosus.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms within 16 confirmed genetic susceptibility loci for SLE were genotyped in a set of 804 Mestizo lupus patients and 667 Mestizo normal healthy controls. In addition, 347 admixture informative markers were genotyped. Individual ancestry proportions were determined using STRUCTURE. Association analysis was performed using PLINK, and correlation of the presence of risk alleles with ancestry was done using linear regression.
A meta-analysis of the genetic association of the 16 SNPs across populations showed that TNFSF4, STAT4, PDCD1, ITGAM, and IRF5 were associated with lupus in a Hispanic-Mestizo cohort enriched for European and Amerindian ancestry. In addition, two SNPs within the MHC region, previously associated in a genome-wide association study in Europeans, were also associated in Mestizos. Using linear regression we predict an average increase of 2.34 risk alleles when comparing a lupus patient with 100% Amerindian ancestry to an SLE patient with 0% American Indian Ancestry (p<0.0001). SLE patients with 43% more Amerindian ancestry are predicted to carry one additional risk allele.
Amerindian ancestry increased the number of risk alleles for lupus.
PMCID: PMC3078084  PMID: 20848568
23.  Association of the C8orf13-BLK Region with Systemic Sclerosis in North-American and European Populations 
Journal of autoimmunity  2009;34(2):155.
Genetic studies in the systemic sclerosis (SSc), an autoimmune disease that clinically manifests with dermal and internal organ fibrosis and small vessel vasculopathy, have identified multiple susceptibility genes including HLA-class II, PTPN22, IRF5, and STAT4 which have also been associated with other autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). These data suggest that there are common autoimmune disease susceptibility genes. The current report sought to determine if polymorphisms in the C8orf13-BLK region (chromosome 8p23.1-B lymphoid tyrosine kinase), which is associated with SLE, are associated also with SSc.
Two variants in the C8orf13-BLK region (rs13277113 & rs2736340) were tested for association with 1050 SSc cases and 694 controls of North Americans of European descent and replicated in a second series 589 SSc cases and 722 controls from Spain.
The “T” allele at rs2736340 variant was associated with SSc in both the U.S. and Spanish case-control series (P=6.8×10−5, OR 1.27, 95%CI 1.1–1.4). The “A” allele at rs13277113 variant was associated with SSc in the U.S. series only (P=3.6×10−4, OR 1.32, 95%CI 1.1–1.6) and was significant in the combined analyses of the two series (P=2.0×10−3; OR 1.20, 95%CI 1.1–1.3). Both variants demonstrated an association with the anti-centromere antibody (P=2.2×10−6 and P=5.5×10−4, respectively) and limited SSc (P=3.3×10−5 and P=2.9×10−3, respectively) in the combined analysis. Peripheral blood gene expression profiles suggest that B-cell receptor and NFκB signaling are dysregulated based on the risk haplotype of these variants.
We identify and replicate the association of the C8orf13-BLK region as a novel susceptibility factor for SSc, placing it in the category of common autoimmune disease susceptibility genes.
PMCID: PMC2821978  PMID: 19796918
Scleroderma; Systemic Sclerosis/SSc; Polymorphism/SNP; BLK; C8orf13; Anti- Topoisomerase-I; Anti-Centromere; Genetics; Autoantibody; rs13277113; rs2736340
24.  Reduced levels of CCL2 and CXCL10 in systemic lupus erythematosus patients under treatment with prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil, or hydroxychloroquine, except in a high STAT1 subset 
Our recent data showed that signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1), adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR), C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2), and C-X-C motif chemokine 10 (CXCL10) were significantly elevated in a systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) cohort compared to healthy donors. High and low STAT1 subsets were identified in SLE patient visits. The present study analyzed the correlation of common treatments used in SLE with the levels of these biomarkers.
Peripheral blood leukocytes were collected from 65 healthy donors and 103 SLE patients, of whom 60 had samples from two or more visits. Total RNA was isolated and analyzed for the expression of mRNA and microRNA using Taqman real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays. Relative expression of interferon signature genes, CCL2, and CXCL10 were determined by the ΔΔCT method. Results were correlated with therapy using prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil, and hydroxychloroquine and analyzed by Wilcoxon/Kruskal-Wallis test and Fisher’s exact test.
CCL2 and CXCL10 were significantly higher in untreated patients compared to treated patients, however, in high STAT1 patient visits there is no significant difference between treated and untreated patients’ visits. When comparing linear regression fits of interferon (IFN) score with CCL2 and CXCL10, untreated patients and high STAT1 patients displayed significantly higher slopes compared to treated patients. There was no significant difference between the slopes of high STAT1 and untreated patients indicating that CCL2 and CXCL10 were correlated with type-I IFN in high STAT1 patients similar to that in untreated patients. CCL2 and CXCL10 levels in the high STAT1 subset remained high in treated patient visits compared to those of the low STAT1 subset.
Among the biomarkers analyzed, only CCL2 and CXCL10 showed significantly reduced levels in treated compared to untreated SLE patients. STAT1, CCL2, and CXCL10 are potentially useful indicators of therapeutic action in SLE patients. Further work is needed to determine whether high STAT1 levels convey resistance to therapies commonly used to treat SLE and whether STAT1 inhibitors may have therapeutic implication for these patients.
PMCID: PMC3978465  PMID: 24460726
25.  STAT4: Genetics, Mechanisms, and Implications for Autoimmunity Review for Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 
Recent advances in genetics and technology have led to breakthroughs in understanding the genes that predispose individuals to autoimmune diseases. A common haplotype of the signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) gene has been shown to be associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and primary Sjögren’s syndrome. STAT4 is a transcription factor that transduces interleukin-12, interleukin-23, and type I interferon cytokine signals in T cells and monocytes, leading to T-helper type 1 and T-helper type 17 differentiation, monocyte activation, and production of interferon-γ. Although the evidence for this association is very strong and well replicated, the exact mechanism by which polymorphisms in this gene lead to disease remains unknown. In concert with the identification of other disease-associated loci, elucidating how the variant form of STAT4 modulates immune function should lead to an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2562257  PMID: 18682104

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