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1.  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
2.  Association of TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1, TNIP1 with systemic lupus erythematosus in a Japanese population: a case-control association study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(5):R174.
TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1, TNIP1 (ABIN-1) is involved in inhibition of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation by interacting with TNF alpha-induced protein 3, A20 (TNFAIP3), an established susceptibility gene to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recent genome-wide association studies revealed association of TNIP1 with SLE in the Caucasian and Chinese populations. In this study, we investigated whether the association of TNIP1 with SLE was replicated in a Japanese population. In addition, association of TNIP1 with RA was also examined.
A case-control association study was conducted on the TNIP1 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs7708392 in 364 Japanese SLE patients, 553 RA patients and 513 healthy controls.
Association of TNIP1 rs7708392C was replicated in Japanese SLE (allele frequency in SLE: 76.5%, control: 69.9%, P = 0.0022, odds ratio [OR] 1.40, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13-1.74). Notably, the risk allele frequency in the healthy controls was considerably greater in Japanese (69.9%) than in Caucasians (24.3%). A tendency of stronger association was observed in the SLE patients with renal disorder (P = 0.00065, OR 1.60 [95%CI 1.22-2.10]) than in all SLE patients (P = 0.0022, OR 1.40 [95%CI 1.13-1.74]). Significant association with RA was not observed, regardless of the carriage of human leukocyte antigen DR β1 (HLA-DRB1) shared epitope. Significant gene-gene interaction between TNIP1 and TNFAIP3 was detected neither in SLE nor RA.
Association of TNIP1 with SLE was confirmed in a Japanese population. TNIP1 is a shared SLE susceptibility gene in the Caucasian and Asian populations, but the genetic contribution appeared to be greater in the Japanese and Chinese populations because of the higher risk allele frequency. Taken together with the association of TNFAIP3, these observations underscore the crucial role of NF-κB regulation in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2991001  PMID: 20849588
3.  Gene–Gene Interaction of BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(1):222-231.
Although the number of convincingly established genetic associations with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has increased sharply over the last few years, refinement of these associations is required, and their potential roles in gene–gene interactions need to be further investigated. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have produced renewed interest in B cell/T cell responses and the NF-κB signaling pathway. The aim of this study was to search for possible gene–gene interactions based on identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in using an approach based on the role of signaling pathways.
The SNPs in BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL were replicated in order to evaluate genetic associations with SLE. TaqMan genotyping was conducted in 804 Chinese patients with SLE and 722 matched control subjects. A multiple logistic regression model was used to estimate the multiplicative interaction effect of the SNPs, and additive interactions were analyzed by 2 × 2 factorial designs. Data from a previously published GWAS conducted by the International Consortium on the Genetics of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus were derived for comparison and validation.
Single-marker analysis validated the association of BLK rs2736340 (P = 4.25 × 10–6) as well as TNFSF4 rs2205960 (P = 2.82 × 10–5) and TNFAIP3 rs5029939 (P = 1.92 × 10–3) with SLE susceptibility in Chinese. Multiplicative interaction analysis indicated that BLK had an interactive effect with TNFSF4 in Chinese patients with SLE (P = 6.57 × 10–4). Additive interaction analysis revealed interactions between TRAF1 and TNFAIP3 in both Chinese (P = 2.18 × 10–3) and Caucasians (P = 2.86 × 10–4). In addition, multiple tendencies toward interactions were observed, and an additive effect was observed as the number of risk genotypes increased.
The results of this study provide evidence of the possible gene–gene interactions of BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL in SLE, which may represent a synergic effect of T cells and B cells through the NF-κB pathway in determining immunologic aberration.
PMCID: PMC3994469  PMID: 21905002
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.  African-Derived Genetic Polymorphisms in TNFAIP3 Mediate Risk for Autoimmunity 
The TNF α-induced protein 3 (TNFAIP3) is an ubiquitin-modifying enzyme and an essential negative regulator of inflammation. Genome-wide association studies have implicated the TNFAIP3 locus in susceptibility to autoimmune disorders in European cohorts, including rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, psoriasis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There are two nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms in the deubiquitinating (DUB) domain of TNFAIP3: F127C, which is in high-linkage disequilibrium with reported SLE-risk variants, and A125V, which has not been previously studied. We conducted a case–control study in African-American SLE patients using these coding variants, along with tagging polymorphisms in TNFAIP3, and identified a novel African-derived risk haplotype that is distinct from previously reported risk variants (odds ratio = 1.6, p = 0.006). In addition, a rare protective haplotype was defined by A125V (odds ratio = 0.31, p = 0.027). Although A125V was associated with protection from SLE, surprisingly the same allele was associated with increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. We tested the functional activity of nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms within TNFAIP3, and found that the A125V coding-change variant alters the DUB activity of the protein. Finally, we used computer modeling to depict how the A125V amino acid change in TNFAIP3 may affect the three-dimensional structure of the DUB domain to a greater extent than F127C. This is the first report of an association between TNFAIP3 polymorphisms and autoimmunity in African-Americans.
PMCID: PMC3307531  PMID: 20483768
6.  Replicated associations of TNFAIP3, TNIP1 and ETS1 with systemic lupus erythematosus in a southwestern Chinese population 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R186.
Recent genome-wide and candidate gene association studies in large numbers of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have suggested approximately 30 susceptibility genes. These genes are involved in three types of biological processes, including immune complex processing, toll-like receptor function and type I interferon production, and immune signal transduction in lymphocytes, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of SLE. To better understand the genetic risk factors of SLE, we investigated the associations of seven SLE susceptibility genes in a Chinese population, including FCGR3A, FCGR2A, TNFAIP3, TLR9, TREX1, ETS1 and TNIP1.
A total of 20 SNPs spanning the seven SLE susceptibility genes were genotyped in a sample of 564 unrelated SLE patients and 504 unrelated healthy controls recruited from Yunnan, southwestern China. The associations of SNPs with SLE were assessed by statistical analysis.
Five SNPs in two genes (TNFAIP3 and ETS1) were significantly associated with SLE (corrected P values ranging from 0.03 to 5.5 × 10-7). Through stratified analysis, TNFAIP3 and ETS1 showed significant associations with multiple SLE subphenotypes (such as malar rash, arthritis, hematologic disorder and antinuclear antibody) while TNIP1 just showed relatively weak association with onset age. The associations of the SNPs in the other four genes were not replicated.
The replication analysis indicates that TNFAIP3, ETS1 and TNIP1 are probably common susceptibility genes for SLE in Chinese populations, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple SLE subphenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3334635  PMID: 22087647
7.  An Enhancer Element Harboring Variants Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Engages the TNFAIP3 Promoter to Influence A20 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003750.
Functional characterization of causal variants present on risk haplotypes identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is a primary objective of human genetics. In this report, we evaluate the function of a pair of tandem polymorphic dinucleotides, 42 kb downstream of the promoter of TNFAIP3, (rs148314165, rs200820567, collectively referred to as TT>A) recently nominated as causal variants responsible for genetic association of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with tumor necrosis factor alpha inducible protein 3 (TNFAIP3). TNFAIP3 encodes the ubiquitin-editing enzyme, A20, a key negative regulator of NF-κB signaling. A20 expression is reduced in subjects carrying the TT>A risk alleles; however, the underlying functional mechanism by which this occurs is unclear. We used a combination of electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA), mass spectrometry (MS), reporter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation-PCR (ChIP-PCR) and chromosome conformation capture (3C) EBV transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) from individuals carrying risk and non-risk TNFAIP3 haplotypes to characterize the effect of TT>A on A20 expression. Our results demonstrate that the TT>A variants reside in an enhancer element that binds NF-κB and SATB1 enabling physical interaction of the enhancer with the TNFAIP3 promoter through long-range DNA looping. Impaired binding of NF-κB to the TT>A risk alleles or knockdown of SATB1 expression by shRNA, inhibits the looping interaction resulting in reduced A20 expression. Together, these data reveal a novel mechanism of TNFAIP3 transcriptional regulation and establish the functional basis by which the TT>A risk variants attenuate A20 expression through inefficient delivery of NF-κB to the TNFAIP3 promoter. These results provide critical functional evidence supporting a direct causal role for TT>A in the genetic predisposition to SLE.
Author Summary
A key objective of human genetics is the identification and characterization of variants responsible for association with complex diseases. A pair of single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs148314165, rs200820567) 42 kb downstream from the promoter of TNFAIP3, have been proposed as the variants responsible for association with systemic lupus erythematosus based on comprehensive genetic and bioinformatic analyses. TNFAIP3 encodes for the ubiquitin-editing enzyme, A20, which plays a central role in maintaining immune system homeostasis through restriction of NF-κB signaling. Cells that carry this risk haplotype express low levels of TNFAIP3 compared to cells carrying the nonrisk haplotype. How the risk alleles of rs148314165 and rs200820567 might influence low TNFAIP3 expression is unknown. In this paper, we demonstrate that these variants reside in an enhancer element that binds NF-κB and SATB1 enabling the interaction of the enhancer with the TNFAIP3 promoter through long-range DNA looping. Impaired binding of NF-κB directly to the risk alleles or shRNA-mediated knockdown of SATB1 inhibits interaction of the enhancer with the TNFAIP3 promoter resulting in reduced A20 expression. These results clarify the functional mechanism by which rs148314165 and rs200820567 attenuate A20 expression and support a causal role for these variants in the predisposition to autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC3764111  PMID: 24039598
8.  Genetic Association Study of TNFAIP3, IFIH1, IRF5 Polymorphisms with Polymyositis/Dermatomyositis in Chinese Han Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110044.
Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the TNFAIP3, IFIH1, and IRF5 genes have been associated with several auto-inflammation diseases, while the susceptibility between these genes and idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIMs) were not reported. This study aimed to investigate whether TNFAIP3, IFIH1, and IRF5 gene polymorphisms confer susceptibility for the IIMs in Chinese Han population.
A large case–control study of Chinese subjects with polymyositis (PM) (n = 298) and dermatomyositis (DM) (n = 530) was accomplished. 968 healthy and ethnically matched controls were available for comparison. Six SNPs in the TNFAIP3 region (rs2230926 and rs5029939), the IFIH1 gene (rs1990760 and rs3747517) and the IRF5 region (rs4728142 and rs729302) were assessed and genotyped using the Sequenom MassArray iPLEX platform.
Our study indicated a strong allele association was observed in PM/DM and PM patients for rs2230926 (OR: 1.61, 95%CI: 1.20–2.16, Pc = 7.5×10−3; OR: 1.88, 95%CI: 1.30–2.74, Pc = 4.0×10−3, respectively) and rs5029939 (OR: 1.64, 95%CI: 1.21–2.21, Pc = 6.0×10−3; OR: 1.88, 95%CI: 1.28–2.76, Pc = 5.5×10−3,respectively). And rs2230926 and rs5029939 were significantly associated with interstitial lung disease (ILD) in PM/DM and PM patients (Pc = 0.04 and Pc = 0.016; Pc = 0.02 and Pc = 0.03, respectively). In addition, rs4728142 allele and genotype had significant association with PM/DM patients (Pc = 0.026 and Pc = 0.048, respectively). Further analysis with three logistic regression genetic models revealed statistically significant difference in the genotypic distribution in the PM/DM, PM or DM patients when the additive and dominant models were used.
This was the first study to reveal TNFAIP3 and IRF5 polymorphisms were associated with PM/DM patients or these patients with ILD, indicating that TNFAIP3 and IRF5 might be the susceptibility gene for PM/DM patients in Chinese Han population.
PMCID: PMC4206287  PMID: 25337792
9.  A Functional TNFAIP2 3'-UTR rs8126 Genetic Polymorphism Contributes to Risk of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e109318.
Accumulated evidences demonstrated that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in mRNA 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) may impact microRNAs (miRNAs)-mediated expression regulation of oncogenes and tumor suppressors. There is a TNFAIP2 3'-UTR rs8126 T>C genetic variant which has been proved to be associated with head and neck cancer susceptibility. This SNP could disturb binding of miR-184 with TNFAIP2 mRNA and influence TNFAIP2 regulation. However, it is still unclear how this polymorphism is involved in development of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Therefore, we hypothesized that the functional TNFAIP2 rs8126 SNP may affect TNFAIP2 expression and, thus, ESCC risk.
We investigated the association between the TNFAIP2 rs8126 variant and ESCC risk as well as the functional relevance on TNFAIP2 expression in vivo. Genotypes were determined in a case-control set consisted of 588 ESCC patients and 600 controls. The allele-specific regulation on TNFAIP2 expression by the rs8126 SNP was examined in normal and cancerous tissue specimens of esophagus.
We found that individuals carrying the rs8126 CC or CT genotype had an OR of 1.89 (95%CI  = 1.23–2.85, P = 0.003) or 1.38 (95%CI  = 1.05–1.73, P = 0.017) for developing ESCC in Chinese compared with individual carrying the TT genotype. Carriers of the rs8126 CC and CT genotypes had significantly lower TNFAIP2 mRNA levels than those with the TT genotypes in normal esophagus tissues (P<0.05).
Our data demonstrate that functional TNFAIP2 rs8126 genetic variant is a ESCC susceptibility SNP. These results support the hypothesis that genetic variants interrupting miRNA-mediated gene regulation might be important genetic modifiers of cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC4226436  PMID: 25383966
10.  A Comprehensive Analysis of Shared Loci between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Sixteen Autoimmune Diseases Reveals Limited Genetic Overlap 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002406.
In spite of the well-known clustering of multiple autoimmune disorders in families, analyses of specific shared genes and polymorphisms between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) have been limited. Therefore, we comprehensively tested autoimmune variants for association with SLE, aiming to identify pleiotropic genetic associations between these diseases. We compiled a list of 446 non–Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of populations of European ancestry across 17 ADs. We then tested these variants in our combined Caucasian SLE cohorts of 1,500 cases and 5,706 controls. We tested a subset of these polymorphisms in an independent Caucasian replication cohort of 2,085 SLE cases and 2,854 controls, allowing the computation of a meta-analysis between all cohorts. We have uncovered novel shared SLE loci that passed multiple comparisons adjustment, including the VTCN1 (rs12046117, P = 2.02×10−06) region. We observed that the loci shared among the most ADs include IL23R, OLIG3/TNFAIP3, and IL2RA. Given the lack of a universal autoimmune risk locus outside of the MHC and variable specificities for different diseases, our data suggests partial pleiotropy among ADs. Hierarchical clustering of ADs suggested that the most genetically related ADs appear to be type 1 diabetes with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis. These findings support a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. For many of the shared GWAS autoimmune loci, we found no evidence for association with SLE, including IL23R. Also, several established SLE loci are apparently not associated with other ADs, including the ITGAM-ITGAX and TNFSF4 regions. This study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune loci to date, supports a relatively distinct non–MHC genetic susceptibility for SLE, provides further evidence for previously and newly identified shared genes in SLE, and highlights the value of studies of potentially pleiotropic genes in autoimmune diseases.
Author Summary
It is well known that multiple autoimmune disorders cluster in families. However, all of the genetic variants that explain this clustering have not been discovered, and the specific genetic variants shared between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) are not known. In order to better understand the genetic factors that explain this predisposition to autoimmunity, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune genetic variants. First we considered results from 17 ADs and compiled a list with 446 significant genetic variants from these studies. We identified some genetic variants extensively shared between ADs, as well as the ADs that share the most variants. The genetic overlap between SLE and other ADs was modest. Next we tested how important all the 446 genetic variants were in our collection with a minimum of 1,500 SLE patients. Among the most significant variants in SLE, the majority had already been identified in previous studies, but we also discovered variants in two important immune genes. In summary, our data identified diseases with common genetic risk factors and novel SLE effects, and this supports a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. This study helps delineate the genetic architecture of ADs.
PMCID: PMC3234215  PMID: 22174698
11.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
12.  Risk Alleles for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in a Large Case-Control Collection and Associations with Clinical Subphenotypes 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001311.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. Recent studies have greatly expanded the number of established SLE risk alleles, but the distribution of multiple risk alleles in cases versus controls and their relationship to subphenotypes have not been studied. We studied 22 SLE susceptibility polymorphisms with previous genome-wide evidence of association (p<5×10−8) in 1919 SLE cases from 9 independent Caucasian SLE case series and 4813 independent controls. The mean number of risk alleles in cases was 15.1 (SD 3.1) while the mean in controls was 13.1 (SD 2.8), with trend p = 4×10−128. We defined a genetic risk score (GRS) for SLE as the number of risk alleles with each weighted by the SLE risk odds ratio (OR). The OR for high-low GRS tertiles, adjusted for intra-European ancestry, sex, and parent study, was 4.4 (95% CI 3.8–5.1). We studied associations of individual SNPs and the GRS with clinical manifestations for the cases: age at diagnosis, the 11 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria, and double-stranded DNA antibody (anti-dsDNA) production. Six subphenotypes were significantly associated with the GRS, most notably anti-dsDNA (ORhigh-low = 2.36, p = 9e−9), the immunologic criterion (ORhigh-low = 2.23, p = 3e−7), and age at diagnosis (ORhigh-low = 1.45, p = 0.0060). Finally, we developed a subphenotype-specific GRS (sub-GRS) for each phenotype with more power to detect cumulative genetic associations. The sub-GRS was more strongly associated than any single SNP effect for 5 subphenotypes (the above plus hematologic disorder and oral ulcers), while single loci are more significantly associated with renal disease (HLA-DRB1, OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.14–1.64) and arthritis (ITGAM, OR = 0.72, 95% CI 0.59–0.88). We did not observe significant associations for other subphenotypes, for individual loci or the sub-GRS. Thus our analysis categorizes SLE subphenotypes into three groups: those having cumulative, single, and no known genetic association with respect to the currently established SLE risk loci.
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. 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 the presence of multiple lupus risk genes, lupus susceptibility, and clinical manifestations, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that certain clinical manifestations of lupus are highly associated with cumulative genetic variations, i.e. multiple risk alleles, while others are associated with a single variation or none at all.
PMCID: PMC3040652  PMID: 21379322
13.  Variants in TNFAIP3, STAT4 and c12orf30 loci associated with multiple auto-immune diseases are also associated with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(7):2124-2130.
Subtypes of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) share phenotypic features with other autoimmune disorders. We investigated several genetic variants associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other autoimmune disorders for association with JIA, to test the hypothesis that clinically distinct phenotypes share common genetic susceptibility factors.
Cases were 445 children with JIA, and controls were 643 healthy adults. Eight single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 7 loci [TNFAIP3 (rs10499194 and rs6920220), RSBN1 (rs6679677), C12ORF30 (rs17696736), TRAF1 (rs3761847), IL2RA (rs2104286), PTPN2 (rs2542151), and STAT4 (rs7574865)] were genotyped by the TaqMan assay. Alleles and genotypes were analyzed for association with JIA and JIA subtypes. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated.
The strongest associations were observed for TNFAIP3 variants rs10499194 (OR: 0.74 (0.61-0.91); p <0.004), and TNFAIP3 rs6920220 (OR: 1.3 (1.05-1.61); p <0.02). We also observed associations between JIA and STAT4 (OR: 1.24 (1.02-1.51); p <0.03) and C12ORF30 (OR: 1.2 (1.01-1.43); p <0.04) variants. The PTPN2 variant rs2542151 deviated from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and was excluded from analyses. Variants in IL2RA, TRAF1, and RSBN1 were not associated with JIA. After stratification by JIA subtype, TNFAIP3 and C12ORF30 variants were associated with oligoarticular JIA, while the STAT4 variant was associated primarily with polyarticular JIA.
We have demonstrated associations between JIA and variants in TNFAIP3, STAT4 and C12ORF30 regions that have previously shown associations with other autoimmune diseases, including RA and systemic lupus erythematosus. Our results suggest that clinically distinct autoimmune phenotypes share common genetic susceptibility factors.
PMCID: PMC3104295  PMID: 19565500
JRA; genetics; autoimmune; association; juvenile idiopathic arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis
14.  Genome-Wide Association Study in Asian Populations Identifies Variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000841.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a complex and potentially fatal autoimmune disease, characterized by autoantibody production and multi-organ damage. By a genome-wide association study (320 patients and 1,500 controls) and subsequent replication altogether involving a total of 3,300 Asian SLE patients from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Thailand, as well as 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls, genetic variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 were found to be associated with SLE (ETS1: rs1128334, P = 2.33×10−11, OR = 1.29; WDFY4: rs7097397, P = 8.15×10−12, OR = 1.30). ETS1 encodes for a transcription factor known to be involved in a wide range of immune functions, including Th17 cell development and terminal differentiation of B lymphocytes. SNP rs1128334 is located in the 3′-UTR of ETS1, and allelic expression analysis from peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed significantly lower expression level from the risk allele. WDFY4 is a conserved protein with unknown function, but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and rs7097397 in WDFY4 changes an arginine residue to glutamine (R1816Q) in this protein. Our study also confirmed association of the HLA locus, STAT4, TNFSF4, BLK, BANK1, IRF5, and TNFAIP3 with SLE in Asians. These new genetic findings may help us to gain a better understanding of the disease and the functions of the genes involved.
Author Summary
In this study, we first conducted a genome-wide association study in a Hong Kong Chinese population, followed by replication in three other cohorts from Mainland China and a cohort from Thailand, which totaled 3,300 Asian patients and 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls. We identified novel variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 associated with SLE with genome-wide significance and confirmed the association of HLA locus, STAT4, BLK, IRF5, BANK1, TNFSF, and IRF5 with the disease. ETS1 encodes a critical transcription factor involved in Th17 and B cell development. Allelic expression study showed a significantly lower expression of ETS1 from the risk allele, which provided functional support to the genetic findings. WDFY4 is a huge protein with unknown function but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and a nonsynonymous SNP in this gene was found to be highly associated with SLE susceptibility. Our findings shed new light on the function of these genes as well as the mechanism of this devastating disease.
PMCID: PMC2820522  PMID: 20169177
15.  Trans-Ancestral Studies Fine Map the SLE-Susceptibility Locus TNFSF4 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003554.
We previously established an 80 kb haplotype upstream of TNFSF4 as a susceptibility locus in the autoimmune disease SLE. SLE-associated alleles at this locus are associated with inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and ischaemic stroke. In Europeans, the TNFSF4 causal variants have remained elusive due to strong linkage disequilibrium exhibited by alleles spanning the region. Using a trans-ancestral approach to fine-map the locus, utilising 17,900 SLE and control subjects including Amerindian/Hispanics (1348 cases, 717 controls), African-Americans (AA) (1529, 2048) and better powered cohorts of Europeans and East Asians, we find strong association of risk alleles in all ethnicities; the AA association replicates in African-American Gullah (152,122). The best evidence of association comes from two adjacent markers: rs2205960-T (P = 1.71×10−34, OR = 1.43[1.26–1.60]) and rs1234317-T (P = 1.16×10−28, OR = 1.38[1.24–1.54]). Inference of fine-scale recombination rates for all populations tested finds the 80 kb risk and non-risk haplotypes in all except African-Americans. In this population the decay of recombination equates to an 11 kb risk haplotype, anchored in the 5′ region proximal to TNFSF4 and tagged by rs2205960-T after 1000 Genomes phase 1 (v3) imputation. Conditional regression analyses delineate the 5′ risk signal to rs2205960-T and the independent non-risk signal to rs1234314-C. Our case-only and SLE-control cohorts demonstrate robust association of rs2205960-T with autoantibody production. The rs2205960-T is predicted to form part of a decameric motif which binds NF-κBp65 with increased affinity compared to rs2205960-G. ChIP-seq data also indicate NF-κB interaction with the DNA sequence at this position in LCL cells. Our research suggests association of rs2205960-T with SLE across multiple groups and an independent non-risk signal at rs1234314-C. rs2205960-T is associated with autoantibody production and lymphopenia. Our data confirm a global signal at TNFSF4 and a role for the expressed product at multiple stages of lymphocyte dysregulation during SLE pathogenesis. We confirm the validity of trans-ancestral mapping in a complex trait.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex disease in which the body's immune cells cause inflammation in one or more systems to cause the associated morbidity. Hormones, the environment and genes are all causal contributors to SLE and over the past several years the genetic component of SLE has been firmly established. Several genes which are regulators of the immune system are associated with disease risk. We have established one of these, the tumour-necrosis family superfamily member 4 (TNFSF4) gene, as a lupus susceptibility gene in Northern Europeans. A major obstacle in pinpointing the marker(s) at TNFSF4 which best explain the risk of SLE has been the strong correlation (linkage disequilibrium, LD) between adjacent markers across the TNFSF4 region in this population. To address this, we have typed polymorphisms in several populations in addition to the European groups. The mixed ancestry of these populations gives a different LD pattern than that found in Europeans, presenting a method of pinpointing the section of the TNFSF4 region which results in SLE susceptibility. The Non-European populations have allowed identification of a polymorphism likely to regulate expression of TNFSF4 to increase susceptibility to SLE.
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
16.  Association analysis of PON2 genetic variants with serum paraoxonase activity and systemic lupus erythematosus 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:7.
Low serum paraoxonase (PON) activity is associated with the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Our prior studies have shown that the PON1/rs662 (p.Gln192Arg), PON1/rs854560 (p.Leu55Met), PON3/rs17884563 and PON3/rs740264 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) significantly affect serum PON activity. Since PON1, PON2 and PON3 share high degree of structural and functional properties, in this study, we examined the role of PON2 genetic variation on serum PON activity, risk of SLE and SLE-related clinical manifestations in a Caucasian case-control sample.
PON2 SNPs were selected from HapMap and SeattleSNPs databases by including at least one tagSNP from each bin defined in these resources. A total of nineteen PON2 SNPs were successfully genotyped in 411 SLE cases and 511 healthy controls using pyrosequencing, restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) or TaqMan allelic discrimination methods.
Our pair-wise linkage disequilibrium (LD) analysis, using an r2 cutoff of 0.7, identified 14 PON2 tagSNPs that captured all 19 PON2 variants in our sample, 12 of which were not in high LD with known PON1 and PON3 SNP modifiers of PON activity. Stepwise regression analysis of PON activity, including the known modifiers, identified five PON2 SNPs [rs6954345 (p.Ser311Cys), rs13306702, rs987539, rs11982486, and rs4729189; P = 0.005 to 2.1 × 10-6] that were significantly associated with PON activity. We found no association of PON2 SNPs with SLE risk but modest associations were observed with lupus nephritis (rs11981433, rs17876205, rs17876183) and immunologic disorder (rs11981433) in SLE patients (P = 0.013 to 0.042).
Our data indicate that PON2 genetic variants significantly affect variation in serum PON activity and have modest effects on risk of lupus nephritis and SLE-related immunologic disorder.
PMCID: PMC3030528  PMID: 21223581
17.  Dense mapping of IL18 shows no association in SLE 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;20(5):1026-1033.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease which behaves as a complex genetic trait. At least 20 SLE risk susceptibility loci have been mapped using both candidate gene and genome-wide association strategies. The gene encoding the pro-inflammatory cytokine, IL18, has been reported as a candidate gene showing an association with SLE. This pleiotropic cytokine is expressed in a range of immune cells and has been shown to induce interferon-γ and tumour necrosis factor-α. Serum interleukin-18 has been reported to be elevated in patients with SLE. Here we aimed to densely map single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across IL18 to investigate the association across this locus. We genotyped 36 across IL18 by Illumina bead express in 372 UK SLE trios. We also genotyped these SNPs in a further 508 non-trio UK cases and were able to accurately impute a dense marker set across IL18 in WTCCC2 controls with a total of 258 SNPs. To improve the study's power, we also imputed a total of 158 SNPs across the IL18 locus using data from an SLE genome-wide association study and performed association testing. In total, we analysed 1818 cases and 10 770 controls in this study. Our large well-powered study (98% to detect odds ratio = 1.5, with respect to rs360719) showed that no individual SNP or haplotype was associated with SLE in any of the cohorts studied. We conclude that we were unable to replicate the SLE association with rs360719 located upstream of IL18. No evidence for association with any other common variant at IL18 with SLE was found.
PMCID: PMC3033184  PMID: 21149337
18.  Functional Effect of Polymorphisms in the Promoter of TNFAIP3 (A20) in Acute Pancreatitis in the Han Chinese Population 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103104.
The zinc finger protein A20 is an important negative regulator of inflammation; polymorphisms in the corresponding gene, TNFAIP3, have been reported to be associated with several inflammation diseases. However, only a few studies have focused on the relationship between TNFAIP3 polymorphisms and acute pancreatitis (AP).
We enrolled 201 healthy controls and 190 acute pancreatitis patients (including 47 systemic inflammatory response syndrome patients) for this study and used DNA sequencing to investigate polymorphisms in the TNFAIP3 promoter. The functional effects of these variants on transcriptional activity, A20 expression, NF-κB activity, and TNF-α and IL-1β levels, after in vitro lipopolysaccharide stimulation, were assessed.
Two SNPs (rs59693083 and rs5029924) in the TNFAIP3 promoter were selected based on bioinformatic analysis. Neither of these SNPs was associated with susceptibility to AP; however, acute pancreatitis patients who possessed the T allele of rs5029924 were more likely to experience systemic inflammatory response syndrome. Moreover, rs5029924 was found to affect TNFAIP3 promoter activity. After lipopolysaccharide stimulation, the expression of A20 protein significantly decreased, while the activity of NF-κB and the production of TNF-α and IL-1β significantly increased in whole blood leukocytes from subjects with the T allele.
The rs5029924 polymorphism in the TNFAIP3 promoter may alter the risk of systemic inflammatory response syndrome in acute pancreatitis patients by influencing the expression of A20 protein.
PMCID: PMC4106899  PMID: 25050625
19.  The miR-184 Binding-Site rs8126 T>C Polymorphism in TNFAIP2 Is Associated with Risk of Gastric Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64973.
TNFAIP2 is a crucial gene involved in apoptosis. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in its miRNA binding sites could modulate functions of the miRNA-target genes and thus risk of cancers. In this study, we investigated associations between potentially functional SNPs in the miRNA binding sites of the 3′UTR of TNFAIP2 and gastric cancer risk in a US population.
We conducted a case-control study of 301 gastric cancer patients and 313 cancer-free controls frequency-matched by age, sex and ethnicity. We genotyped four selected TNFAIP2 SNPs (rs8126 T>C, rs710100 G>A, rs1052912 G>A and rs1052823 G>T) and used the logistic regression analysis to assess associations of these SNPs with cancer risk.
The rs8126 CC genotype was associated with a significantly elevated risk of gastric cancer (adjusted OR = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.09–3.64 and P = 0.024), compared with the combined rs8126 TT+TC genotypes, particularly in current drinkers. However, none of other TNFAIP2 SNPs was associated with risk of gastric cancer.
Our data suggested that the TNFAIP2 miRNA binding site rs8126 T>C SNP may be a marker for susceptibility to gastric cancer, and this finding requires further validation by larger studies.
PMCID: PMC3665554  PMID: 23724109
20.  A functional variant at the miR-184 binding site in TNFAIP2 and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck 
Carcinogenesis  2011;32(11):1668-1674.
Although the role of TNFAIP2 is still unclear, it is an important gene involved in apoptosis, and there are single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at its microRNA (miRNA)-binding sites that could modulate miRNA target gene function. In this study, we evaluated associations of four selected SNPs (rs8126 T > C, rs710100 G > A, rs1052912 G > A and rs1052823 G > T) in the miRNA-binding sites of the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) risk in 1077 patients with SCCHN and 1073 cancer-free controls in a non-Hispanic White population. We found that, compared with the rs8126 TT genotype, the variant C allele were associated with increased SCCHN risk in an allele dose–response manner (adjusted odds ratio = 1.48 and 95% confidence interval = 1.06–2.05 for CC, respectively; Ptrend = 0.009). No significant associations were seen for the other three SNPs (rs710100 G > A, rs1052912 G > A and rs1052823 G > T). Additionally, we identified that the rs8126 T > C SNP is within the miR-184 seed binding region in the 3′ UTR of TNFAIP2. Further functional analyses showed that the rs8126 variant C allele led to significantly lower luciferase activity, compared with the T allele. In the genotype–phenotype correlation analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 64 SCCHN patients, the rs8126 CC genotype was associated with reduced expression of TNFAIP2 messenger RNA. Taken together, these findings indicate that the miR-184 binding site SNP (rs8126 T > C) in the 3′ UTR of TNFAIP2 is functional by modulating TNFAIP2 expression and contributes to SCCHN susceptibility. Larger replication studies are needed to confirm our findings.
PMCID: PMC3204352  PMID: 21934093
21.  Genetic Variants Near TNFAIP3 on 6q23 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) 
Nature genetics  2008;40(9):1059-1061.
SLE is an autoimmune disease influenced by genetic and environmental components. We performed a genome-wide association scan (GWAS) and observed novel association evidence with a variant inTNFAIP3(rs5029939, P = 2.89×10−12, OR = 2.29). We also found evidence of two independent signals of association to SLE risk, including one described in Rheumatoid Arthritis. These results establish that genetic variation inTNFAIP3contributes to differential risk for SLE and RA.
PMCID: PMC2772171  PMID: 19165918
22.  Evaluation of imputation-based association in and around the integrin-α-M (ITGAM) gene and replication of robust association between a non-synonymous functional variant within ITGAM and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(6):1171-1180.
We recently identified a novel non-synonymous variant, rs1143679, at exon 3 of the ITGAM gene associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility in European-Americans (EAs) and African-Americans. Using genome-wide association approach, three other studies also independently reported an association between SLE susceptibility and ITGAM or ITGAM-ITGAX region. The primary objectives of this study are to assess whether single or multiple causal variants from the same gene or any nearby gene(s) are involved in SLE susceptibility and to confirm a robust ITGAM association across nine independent data sets (n = 8211). First, we confirmed our previously reported association of rs1143679 (risk allele ‘A’) with SLE in EAs (P = 1.0 × 10−8) and Hispanic-Americans (P = 2.9 × 10−5). Secondly, using a comprehensive imputation-based association test, we found that ITGAM is one of the major non-human leukocyte antigen susceptibility genes for SLE, and the strongest association for EA is the same coding variant rs1143679 (log10Bayes factor=20, P = 6.17 × 10−24). Thirdly, we determined the robustness of rs1143679 association with SLE across three additional case–control samples, including UK (P = 6.2 × 10−8), Colombian (P = 3.6 × 10−7), Mexican (P = 0.002), as well as two independent sets of trios from UK (PTDT = 1.4 × 10−5) and Mexico (PTDT = 0.015). A meta-analysis combing all independent data sets greatly reinforces the association (Pmeta = 7.1 × 10−50, odds ratio = 1.83, 95% confidence interval = 1.69–1.98, n = 10 046). However, this ITGAM association was not observed in the Korean or Japanese samples, in which rs1143679 is monomorphic for the non-risk allele (G). Taken together along with our earlier findings, these results demonstrate that the coding variant, rs1143679, best explains the ITGAM-SLE association, especially in European- and African-derived populations, but not in Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC2649018  PMID: 19129174
23.  Association of Genetic Variants in Complement Factor H and Factor H-Related Genes with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Susceptibility 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(5):e1002079.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex polygenic autoimmune disease, is associated with increased complement activation. Variants of genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) within the chromosome 1q32 locus linked to SLE, have been associated with multiple human diseases and may contribute to dysregulated complement activation predisposing to SLE. We assessed 60 SNPs covering the CFH-CFHRs region for association with SLE in 15,864 case-control subjects derived from four ethnic groups. Significant allelic associations with SLE were detected in European Americans (EA) and African Americans (AA), which could be attributed to an intronic CFH SNP (rs6677604, in intron 11, Pmeta = 6.6×10−8, OR = 1.18) and an intergenic SNP between CFHR1 and CFHR4 (rs16840639, Pmeta = 2.9×10−7, OR = 1.17) rather than to previously identified disease-associated CFH exonic SNPs, including I62V, Y402H, A474A, and D936E. In addition, allelic association of rs6677604 with SLE was subsequently confirmed in Asians (AS). Haplotype analysis revealed that the underlying causal variant, tagged by rs6677604 and rs16840639, was localized to a ∼146 kb block extending from intron 9 of CFH to downstream of CFHR1. Within this block, the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 (CFHR3-1Δ), a likely causal variant measured using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, was tagged by rs6677604 in EA and AS and rs16840639 in AA, respectively. Deduced from genotypic associations of tag SNPs in EA, AA, and AS, homozygous deletion of CFHR3-1Δ (Pmeta = 3.2×10−7, OR = 1.47) conferred a higher risk of SLE than heterozygous deletion (Pmeta = 3.5×10−4, OR = 1.14). These results suggested that the CFHR3-1Δ deletion within the SLE-associated block, but not the previously described exonic SNPs of CFH, might contribute to the development of SLE in EA, AA, and AS, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease, associated with increased complement activation. Previous studies have provided evidence for the presence of SLE susceptibility gene(s) in the chromosome 1q31-32 locus. Within 1q32, genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) may contribute to the development of SLE, because genetic variants of these genes impair complement regulation and predispose to various human diseases. In this study, we tested association of genetic variants in the region containing CFH and CFHRs with SLE. We identified genetic variants predisposing to SLE in European American, African American, and Asian populations, which might be attributed to the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 genes but not previously identified disease-associated exonic variants of CFH. This study provides the first evidence for consistent association between CFH/CFHRs and SLE across multi-ancestral SLE datasets, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3102741  PMID: 21637784
24.  Differential Genetic Associations for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Based on Anti–dsDNA Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001323.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, systemic autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody formation. Previously published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have investigated SLE as a single phenotype. Therefore, we conducted a GWAS to identify genetic factors associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production, a SLE–related autoantibody with diagnostic and clinical importance. Using two independent datasets, over 400,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied in a total of 1,717 SLE cases and 4,813 healthy controls. Anti–dsDNA autoantibody positive (anti–dsDNA +, n = 811) and anti–dsDNA autoantibody negative (anti–dsDNA –, n = 906) SLE cases were compared to healthy controls and to each other to identify SNPs associated specifically with these SLE subtypes. SNPs in the previously identified SLE susceptibility loci STAT4, IRF5, ITGAM, and the major histocompatibility complex were strongly associated with anti–dsDNA + SLE. Far fewer and weaker associations were observed for anti–dsDNA – SLE. For example, rs7574865 in STAT4 had an OR for anti–dsDNA + SLE of 1.77 (95% CI 1.57–1.99, p = 2.0E-20) compared to an OR for anti–dsDNA – SLE of 1.26 (95% CI 1.12–1.41, p = 2.4E-04), with pheterogeneity<0.0005. SNPs in the SLE susceptibility loci BANK1, KIAA1542, and UBE2L3 showed evidence of association with anti–dsDNA + SLE and were not associated with anti–dsDNA – SLE. In conclusion, we identified differential genetic associations with SLE based on anti–dsDNA autoantibody production. Many previously identified SLE susceptibility loci may confer disease risk through their role in autoantibody production and be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity loci. Lack of strong SNP associations may suggest that other types of genetic variation or non-genetic factors such as environmental exposures have a greater impact on susceptibility to anti–dsDNA – SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can involve virtually any organ system. SLE patients produce antibodies that bind to their own cells and proteins (autoantibodies) which can cause irreversible organ damage. One particular SLE–related autoantibody directed at double-stranded DNA (anti–dsDNA) is associated with kidney involvement and more severe disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have studied SLE itself, not particular SLE manifestations. Therefore, we conducted this GWAS of anti–dsDNA autoantibody production to identify genetic associations with this clinically important autoantibody. We found that many previously identified SLE–associated genes are more strongly associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production than SLE itself, and they may be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity genes. No strong genetic associations were observed for SLE patients who do not produce anti–dsDNA autoantibodies, suggesting that other factors may have more influence in developing this type of SLE. Further investigation of these autoantibody propensity genes may lead to greater insight into the causes of autoantibody production and organ damage in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
25.  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

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