This study characterized the human apolipoprotein H (APOH, a.k.a. β2-glycoprotein I) promoter and its variants by in vitro functional experiments and investigated their relation with human plasma β2GPI levels. We examined the individual effects of 12 APOH promoter SNPs in the 5' flanking region of APOH (~1.4 kb) on luciferase activity in COS-1 cells and HepG2 cells and their impact on plasma β2GPI levels in 799 U.S. Whites, the DNA-binding properties of APOH promoter using electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) in HepG2 cells, the effects of serial deletion analysis of APOH 5' flanking region in COS-1 and HepG2 cells, and cross-species conservation of the APOH promoter sequence. The variant alleles of three SNPs (−1219G>A, −643T>C and −32C>A) showed significantly lower luciferase expression (51%, 40% and 37%, respectively) as compared to the wild-type allele. EMSA demonstrated that these three variants specifically bind with protein(s) from HepG2 cell nuclear extracts. Three-site haplotype analysis (−1219G>A, −643T>C, and −32C>A) revealed one haplotype carrying −32A (allele frequency = 0.075) to be significantly associated with decreased plasma β2GPI levels (P < 0.001). Deletion analysis localized the core APOH promoter to ~160 bp upstream of ATG codon with the presence of critical cis-acting elements between −166 and −65. Cross-species conservation analysis of the APOH promoters of 7 species indicated that basic promoter elements are highly conserved across species. In conclusion, we have characterized the functional promoter of APOH and identified functional variants that affect the transcriptional activity of the APOH promoter.
APOH; β2-glycoprotein I; promoter; polymorphisms; association
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.
Recent studies identified STAT4 (signal transducers and activators of transcription-4) as a susceptibility gene for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). STAT1 is encoded adjacently to STAT4 on 2q32.2-q32.3, upregulated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from SLE patients, and functionally relevant to SLE. This study was conducted to test whether STAT4 is associated with SLE in a Japanese population also, to identify the risk haplotype, and to examine the potential genetic contribution of STAT1. To accomplish these aims, we carried out a comprehensive association analysis of 52 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) encompassing the STAT1-STAT4 region.
In the first screening, 52 tag SNPs were selected based on HapMap Phase II JPT (Japanese in Tokyo, Japan) data, and case-control association analysis was carried out on 105 Japanese female patients with SLE and 102 female controls. For associated SNPs, additional cases and controls were genotyped and association was analyzed using 308 SLE patients and 306 controls. Estimation of haplotype frequencies and an association study using the permutation test were performed with Haploview version 4.0 software. Population attributable risk percentage was estimated to compare the epidemiological significance of the risk genotype among populations.
In the first screening, rs7574865, rs11889341, and rs10168266 in STAT4 were most significantly associated (P < 0.01). Significant association was not observed for STAT1. Subsequent association studies of the three SNPs using 308 SLE patients and 306 controls confirmed a strong association of the rs7574865T allele (SLE patients: 46.3%, controls: 33.5%, P = 4.9 × 10-6, odds ratio 1.71) as well as TTT haplotype (rs10168266/rs11889341/rs7574865) (P = 1.5 × 10-6). The association was stronger in subgroups of SLE with nephritis and anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies. Population attributable risk percentage was estimated to be higher in the Japanese population (40.2%) than in Americans of European descent (19.5%).
The same STAT4 risk allele is associated with SLE in Caucasian and Japanese populations. Evidence for a role of STAT1 in genetic susceptibility to SLE was not detected. The contribution of STAT4 for the genetic background of SLE may be greater in the Japanese population than in Americans of European descent.
A substantial genetic contribution to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) risk is conferred by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene(s) on chromosome 6p21. Previous studies in SLE have lacked statistical power and genetic resolution to fully define MHC influences. We characterized 1,610 Caucasian SLE cases and 1,470 parents for 1,974 MHC SNPs, the highly polymorphic HLA-DRB1 locus, and a panel of ancestry informative markers. Single-marker analyses revealed strong signals for SNPs within several MHC regions, as well as with HLA-DRB1 (global p = 9.99×10−16). The most strongly associated DRB1 alleles were: *0301 (odds ratio, OR = 2.21, p = 2.53×10−12), *1401 (OR = 0.50, p = 0.0002), and *1501 (OR = 1.39, p = 0.0032). The MHC region SNP demonstrating the strongest evidence of association with SLE was rs3117103, with OR = 2.44 and p = 2.80×10−13. Conditional haplotype and stepwise logistic regression analyses identified strong evidence for association between SLE and the extended class I, class I, class III, class II, and the extended class II MHC regions. Sequential removal of SLE–associated DRB1 haplotypes revealed independent effects due to variation within OR2H2 (extended class I, rs362521, p = 0.006), CREBL1 (class III, rs8283, p = 0.01), and DQB2 (class II, rs7769979, p = 0.003, and rs10947345, p = 0.0004). Further, conditional haplotype analyses demonstrated that variation within MICB (class I, rs3828903, p = 0.006) also contributes to SLE risk independent of HLA-DRB1*0301. Our results for the first time delineate with high resolution several MHC regions with independent contributions to SLE risk. We provide a list of candidate variants based on biologic and functional considerations that may be causally related to SLE risk and warrant further investigation.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and involvement of multiple organ systems. Although the cause of SLE remains unknown, several lines of evidence underscore the importance of genetic factors. As is true for most autoimmune diseases, a substantial genetic contribution to disease risk is conferred by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene(s) on chromosome 6. This region of the genome contains a large number of genes that participate in the immune response. However, the full contribution of this genomic region to SLE risk has not yet been defined. In the current study we characterize a large number of SLE patients and family members for approximately 2,000 MHC region variants to identify the specific genes that influence disease risk. Our results, for the first time, implicate four different MHC regions in SLE risk. We provide a list of candidate variants based on biologic and functional considerations that may be causally related to SLE risk and warrant further investigation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
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.
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.
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.
Apolipoproteins have recently been implicated in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In particular, Apolipoprotein J (ApoJ or clusterin) has been proposed as a biomarker of the disease at the pre-dementia stage. We examined a group of apolipoproteins, including ApoA1, ApoA2, ApoB, ApoC3, ApoE, ApoH and ApoJ, in the plasma of a longitudinal community based cohort.
664 subjects (257 with Mild Cognitive Impairment [MCI] and 407 with normal cognition), mean age 78 years, from the Sydney Memory and Aging Study (MAS) were followed up over two years. Plasma apolipoprotein levels at baseline (Wave 1) were measured using a multiplex bead fluorescence immunoassay technique.
At Wave 1, MCI subjects had lower levels of ApoA1, ApoA2 and ApoH, and higher levels of ApoE and ApoJ, and a higher ApoB/ApoA1 ratio. Carriers of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele had significantly lower levels of plasma ApoE, ApoC3 and ApoH and a significantly higher level of ApoB. Global cognitive scores were correlated positively with ApoH and negatively with ApoJ levels. ApoJ and ApoE levels were correlated negatively with grey matter volume and positively with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volume on MRI. Lower ApoA1, ApoA2 and ApoH levels, and higher ApoB/ApoA1 ratio, increased the risk of cognitive decline over two years in cognitively normal individuals. ApoA1 was the most significant predictor of decline. These associations remained after statistically controlling for lipid profile. Higher ApoJ levels predicted white matter atrophy over two years.
Elderly individuals with MCI have abnormal apolipoprotein levels, which are related to cognitive function and volumetric MRI measures cross-sectionally and are predictive of cognitive impairment in cognitively normal subjects. ApoA1, ApoH and ApoJ are potential plasma biomarkers of cognitive decline in non-demented elderly individuals.
We evaluated the roles of five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within PDCD1, and haplotypes defined by these SNPs, for the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and specific sub-phenotypes (nephritis, antiphospholipid antibody positive, arthritis and double-stranded DNA positive) within a multiethnic US cohort of 1036 patients. Family based analyses were performed using 844 simplex families from four ethnic groups (Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and African American). Subjects were genotyped for five ‘tag’ SNPs (selected from 15) to provide complete genetic information in all main ethnic groups. We employed transmission disequilibrium testing to assess risk for SLE by allele or haplotype, and multiple logistic regression analysis of SLE cases to examine associations with specific sub-phenotypes. In family based analyses, a haplotype containing the PD1.3A allele was significantly associated with SLE susceptibility among Caucasian families (P = 0.01). Among Hispanic families, two novel SNPs were associated with SLE risk (P = 0.005 and 0.01). In multivariate logistic regression analyses, five haplotypes were associated with specific sub-phenotypes among the different ethnic groups. These results suggest that PDCD1 genetic variation influences the risk and expression of SLE and that these associations vary according to ethnic background.
systemic lupus erythematosus; PDCD1; family-based methods; haplotypes
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic multisystem genetically complex autoimmune disease characterised by the production of autoantibodies to nuclear and cellular antigens, tissue inflammation and organ damage. Genome-wide association studies have shown that variants within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region on chromosome 6 confer the greatest genetic risk for SLE in European and Chinese populations. However, the causal variants remain elusive due to tight linkage disequilibrium across disease-associated MHC haplotypes, the highly polymorphic nature of many MHC genes and the heterogeneity of the SLE phenotype.
A high-density case-control single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) study of the MHC region was undertaken in SLE cohorts of Spanish and Filipino ancestry using a custom Illumina chip in order to fine-map association signals in these haplotypically diverse populations. In addition, comparative analyses were performed between these two datasets and a northern European UK SLE cohort. A total of 1433 cases and 1458 matched controls were examined.
Using this transancestral SNP mapping approach, novel independent loci were identified within the MHC region in UK, Spanish and Filipino patients with SLE with some evidence of interaction. These loci include HLA-DPB1, HLA-G and MSH5 which are independent of each other and HLA-DRB1 alleles. Furthermore, the established SLE-associated HLA-DRB1*15 signal was refined to an interval encompassing HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQA1. Increased frequencies of MHC region risk alleles and haplotypes were found in the Filipino population compared with Europeans, suggesting that the greater disease burden in non-European SLE may be due in part to this phenomenon.
These data highlight the usefulness of mapping disease susceptibility loci using a transancestral approach, particularly in a region as complex as the MHC, and offer a springboard for further fine-mapping, resequencing and transcriptomic analysis.
Genetic factors influence susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A recent family-based analysis in Caucasian and Chinese populations provided evidence for association of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the complement receptor 2 (CR2/CD21) gene with SLE. Here we confirmed this result in a case-control analysis of an independent European-derived population including 2084 patients with SLE and 2853 healthy controls. A haplotype formed by the minor alleles of three CR2 SNPs (rs1048971, rs17615, rs4308977) showed significant association with decreased risk of SLE (30.4% in cases vs. 32.6% in controls, P = 0.016, OR = 0.90 [0.82-0.98]). Two of these SNPs are in exon 10, directly 5′ of an alternatively spliced exon preferentially expressed in follicular dendritic cells (FDC), and the third is in the alternatively spliced exon. Effects of these SNPs as well as a fourth SNP in exon 11 (rs17616) on alternative splicing were evaluated. We found that the minor alleles of these SNPs decreased splicing efficiency of exon 11 both in vitro and ex vivo. These findings further implicate CR2 in the pathogenesis of SLE and suggest that CR2 variants alter the maintenance of tolerance and autoantibody production in the secondary lymphoid tissues where B cells and FDCs interact.
Alternative splicing; systemic lupus erythematosus; complement receptors; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; B cells; follicular dendritic cells
Genetic variation in interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been associated with risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and this association is largely dependent upon anti-Ro autoantibodies. We studied a unique cohort of anti-Ro positive individuals with diverse diagnoses to determine if IRF5 genotype associated with maternal diagnosis or progression of autoimmunity.
We genotyped haplotype-tagging polymorphisms in IRF5 in 93 European ancestry subjects recruited to the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus who all had high titer anti-Ro autoantibodies and a child with neonatal lupus (NL), and allele frequencies were compared to non-autoimmune controls. The mothers diagnoses included SLE, Sjogren’s syndrome (SS), undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome (UAS), and asymptomatic.
The SLE-risk haplotype of IRF5 was enriched in all anti-Ro positive subjects except those with SS (OR = 2.55, p=8.8×10−4). Even asymptomatic individuals with anti-Ro antibodies were enriched for the SLE-risk haplotype (OR=2.69, p=0.019). The same haplotype was more prevalent in subjects who were initially asymptomatic, but developed symptomatic SLE during follow up (OR=5.83, p=0.0024). Interestingly, SS was associated with two minor IRF5 haplotypes, and these same haplotypes were decreased in frequency in those with SLE and UAS.
The IRF5 SLE-risk haplotype was associated with anti-Ro antibodies in asymptomatic individuals as well as progression to SLE in asymptomatic anti-Ro positive individuals. SS in NL mothers was associated with different IRF5 haplotypes. These data suggest that IRF5 polymorphisms play a role in serologic autoimmunity in humans and may promote the progression to clinical autoimmunity.
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon; autoantibodies; neonatal lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6p21 is a key contributor to the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythemathosus (SLE). Although SLE affects African Americans disproportionately compared to European Americans, there has been no comprehensive analysis of the MHC region in relationship to SLE in African Americans. We conducted a screening of the MHC region for 1,536 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and the deletion of the C4A gene in a SLE case-control study (380 cases, 765 age-matched controls) nested within the prospective Black Women’s Health Study. We also genotyped 1,509 ancestral informative markers throughout the genome to estimate European ancestry in order to control for population stratification due to population admixture. The most strongly associated SNP with SLE was the rs9271366 (odds ratio, OR = 1.70, p = 5.6×10−5) near the HLA-DRB1 gene. Conditional haplotype analysis revealed three other SNPs, rs204890 (OR = 1.86, p = 1.2×10−4), rs2071349 (OR = 1.53, p = 1.0×10−3), and rs2844580 (OR = 1.43, p = 1.3×10−3) to be associated with SLE independent of the rs9271366 SNP. In univariate analysis, the OR for the C4A deletion was 1.38, p = 0.075, but after simultaneous adjustment for the other four SNPs the odds ratio was 1.01, p = 0.98. A genotype score combining the four newly identified SNPs showed an additive risk according to the number of high-risk alleles (OR = 1.67 per high-risk allele, p< 0.0001). Our strongest signal, the rs9271366 SNP, was also associated with higher risk of SLE in a previous Chinese genome-wide association study (GWAS). In addition, two SNPs found in a GWAS of European ancestry women were confirmed in our study, indicating that African Americans share some genetic risk factors for SLE with European and Chinese subjects. In summary, we found four independent signals in the MHC region associated with risk of SLE in African American women.
systemic lupus erythemathosus; African Americans; major histocompatibility complex; single nucleotide polymorphisms
Interferon regulatory factor 2 (IRF2) negatively regulates type I interferon (IFN) responses, while it plays a role in induction of Th1 differentiation. Previous linkage and association studies in European-American populations suggested genetic role of IRF2 in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); however, this observation has not yet been confirmed. No studies have been reported in the Asian populations. Here we investigated whether IRF2 polymorphisms contribute to susceptibility to SLE in a Japanese population. Association study of 46 IRF2 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) detected association of an intronic SNP, rs13146124, with SLE. When the association was analyzed in 834 Japanese patients with SLE and 817 healthy controls, rs13146124 T was significantly increased in SLE compared with healthy controls (dominant model, P = 5.4×10−4, Bonferroni-corrected P [Pc] = 0.026, odds ratio [OR] 1.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.18–1.85). To find causal SNPs, resequencing was performed by next-generation sequencing. Twelve polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium with rs13146124 (r2: 0.30–1.00) were identified, among which significant association was observed for rs66801661 (allele model, P = 7.7×10−4, Pc = 0.037, OR 1.53, 95%CI 1.19–1.96) and rs62339994 (dominant model, P = 9.0×10−4, Pc = 0.043, OR 1.46, 95%CI 1.17–1.82). The haplotype carrying both of the risk alleles (rs66801661A–rs62339994A) was significantly increased in SLE (P = 9.9×10−4), while the haplotype constituted by both of the non-risk alleles (rs66801661G–rs62339994G) was decreased (P = 0.0020). A reporter assay was carried out to examine the effect of the IRF2 haplotypes on the transcriptional activity, and association of the IRF2 risk haplotype with higher transcriptional activity was detected in Jurkat T cells under IFNγ stimulation (Tukey's test, P = 1.2×10−4). In conclusion, our observations supported the association of IRF2 with susceptibility to SLE, and the risk haplotype was suggested to be associated with transcriptional activation of IRF2.
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.
Osteopontin (SPP1) is an important bone matrix mediator found to have key roles in inflammation and immunity. SPP1 genetic polymorphisms and increased osteopontin protein levels have been reported to be associated with SLE in small patient collections. The present study evaluates association between SPP1 polymorphisms and SLE in a large cohort of 1141 unrelated SLE patients [707 European-American (EA) and 434 African-American (AA)], and 2009 unrelated controls (1309 EA and 700 AA). Population-based case-control association analyses were performed. To control for potential population stratification, admixture adjusted logistic regression, genomic control (GC), structured association (STRAT), and principal components analysis (PCA) were applied. Combined analysis of 2 ethnic groups, showed the minor allele of 2 SNPs (rs1126616T and rs9138C) significantly associated with higher risk of SLE in males (P = 0.0005, OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.28–2.33), but not in females. Indeed, significant gene-gender interactions in the 2 SNPs, rs1126772 and rs9138, were detected (P = 0.001 and P = 0.0006, respectively). Further, haplotype analysis identified rs1126616T-rs1126772A-rs9138C which demonstrated significant association with SLE in general (P = 0.02, OR = 1.30, 95%CI 1.08–1.57), especially in males (P = 0.0003, OR = 2.42, 95%CI 1.51–3.89). Subgroup analysis with single SNPs and haplotypes also identified a similar pattern of gender-specific association in AA and EA. GC, STRAT, and PCA results within each group showed consistent associations. Our data suggest SPP1 is associated with SLE, and this association is especially stronger in males. To our knowledge, this report serves as the first association of a specific autosomal gene with human male lupus.
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.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component that determines risk. A common three single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) haplotype of the complement receptor 2 (CR2) gene has been associated with increased risk of SLE (Wu et al., 2007) (Douglas et al., 2009), and a less common haplotype consisting of the major allele at SNP1 and minor alleles at SNP2 and 3 confers protection (Douglas et al., 2009). SNP1 (rs3813946), which is located in the 5´ untranslated region (UTR) of the CR2 gene, altered transcriptional activity of a CR2 promoter-luciferase reporter gene construct transiently transfected into a B cell line (Wu et al., 2007) and had an independent effect in the protective haplotype (Douglas et al., 2009). In this study, we show that this SNP alters transcriptional activity in a transiently transfected non B-cell line as well as in stably transfected cell lines, supporting its relevance in vivo. Furthermore, the allele at this SNP affects chromatin accessibility of the surrounding sequence and transcription factor binding. These data confirm the effects of rs3813946 on CR2 transcription, identifying the 5´UTR to be a novel regulatory element for the CR2 gene in which variation may alter gene function and modify the development of lupus.
Human; B cells; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Regulation; Transcription Factors; Complement Receptor 2
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.
The association of functional polymorphisms in the promoter of the apoptosis gene FAS with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility has been a controversial subject. We conducted a case-control study to investigate this association in a Chinese population and performed a meta-analysis in different populations. The single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs2234767 (−1377G>A) and rs1800682 (−670A>G) were genotyped by TaqMan allelic discrimination assays in 552 Chinese SLE patients and 718 healthy controls. In our case-control study, we observed allelic association between the promoter SNP rs2234767 [P=0.033, odds ratio (OR)=0.836, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.709–0.986] and SLE but not the SNP rs1800682. Haplotype analysis revealed that one haplotype of GA was significantly associated with the disease (P=0.039, OR=1.184, 95% CI, 1.009–1.391). In the meta-analysis available studies, including our data, were combined using the STATA software package v.7.0. The meta-analysis revealed a significant association between FAS polymorphisms and SLE (rs2234767 A vs. G allele; P=0.004, OR=0.819, 95% CI, 0.715–0.938, rs1800682 G vs. A allele: P=0.034, OR=0.791, 95% CI, 0.637–0.983). In conclusion, FAS gene polymorphisms may contribute to SLE susceptibility in the Chinese population, and the meta-analysis shows that FAS polymorphisms may be associated with SLE susceptibility in different populations.
systemic lupus erythematosus; FAS; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; meta-analysis
The association of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) with SLE is well established yet the causal variants arising from this region remain to be identified, largely due to inadequate study design and the strong linkage disequilibrium demonstrated by genes across this locus. The majority of studies thus far have identified strong association with classical class II alleles, in particular HLA-DRB1*0301 and HLA-DRB1*1501. Additional associations have been reported with class III alleles; specifically, complement C4 null alleles and a tumor necrosis factor promoter SNP (TNF-308G/A). However, the relative effects of these class II and class III variants have not been determined. We have thus used a family-based approach to map association signals across the MHC class II and class III regions in a cohort of 314 complete United Kingdom Caucasian SLE trios by typing tagging SNPs together with classical typing of the HLA-DRB1 locus. Using TDT and conditional regression analyses, we have demonstrated the presence of two distinct and independent association signals in SLE: HLA-DRB1*0301 (nominal p = 4.9 × 10−8, permuted p < 0.0001, OR = 2.3) and the T allele of SNP rs419788 (nominal p = 4.3 × 10−8, permuted p < 0.0001, OR = 2.0) in intron 6 of the class III region gene SKIV2L. Assessment of genotypic risk demonstrates a likely dominant model of inheritance for HLA-DRB1*0301, while rs419788-T confers susceptibility in an additive manner. Furthermore, by comparing transmitted and untransmitted parental chromosomes, we have delimited our class II signal to a 180 kb region encompassing the alleles HLA-DRB1*0301-HLA-DQA1*0501-HLA-DQB1*0201 alone. Our class III signal importantly excludes independent association at the TNF promoter polymorphism, TNF-308G/A, in our SLE cohort and provides a potentially novel locus for future genetic and functional studies.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues, causing inflammation in a variety of different organs such as the skin, joints, and kidneys. The cause of lupus is not known, but genes play a significant role in the predisposition to disease. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on Chromosome 6 contains at least 100 different genes that affect the immune system, including the genes with the strongest effect on lupus susceptibility. Despite the importance of the MHC in SLE, the identity of the actual genes in the MHC region that cause SLE has remained elusive. In the present study, we used the latest set of genetic markers present at the MHC in lupus families to identify the actual genes that affect the disease. To our knowledge, we have shown for the first time that two separate groups of genes are involved in SLE. One group of genes alters how the immune system may inappropriately target its own tissues in the disease. How the second set of genes predisposes to SLE is the subject of ongoing study.