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1.  The Crohn's disease: associated ATG16L1 variant and Salmonella invasion 
BMJ Open  2013;3(6):e002790.
A common genetic coding variant in the core autophagy gene ATG16L1 is associated with increased susceptibility to Crohn's disease (CD). The variant encodes an amino acid change in ATG16L1 such that the threonine at position 300 is substituted with an alanine (ATG16L1 T300A). How this variant contributes to increased risk of CD is not known, but studies with transfected cell lines and gene-targeted mice have demonstrated that ATG16L1 is required for autophagy, control of interleukin-1-β and autophagic clearance of intracellular microbes. In addition, studies with human cells expressing ATG16L1 T300A indicate that this variant reduces the autophagic clearance of intracellular microbes.
We demonstrate, using somatically gene-targeted human cells that the ATG16L1 T300A variant confers protection from cellular invasion by Salmonella. In addition, we show that ATG16L1-deficient cells are resistant to bacterial invasion.
These results suggest that cellular expression of ATG16L1 facilitates bacterial invasion and that the CD-associated ATG16L1 T300A variant may confer protection from bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC3686164  PMID: 23794574
2.  Impaired Autophagy of an Intracellular Pathogen Induced by a Crohn's Disease Associated ATG16L1 Variant 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3391.
The genetic risk factors predisposing individuals to the development of inflammatory bowel disease are beginning to be deciphered by genome-wide association studies. Surprisingly, these new data point towards a critical role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. A single common coding variant in the autophagy protein ATG16L1 predisposes individuals to the development of Crohn's disease: while ATG16L1 encoding threonine at amino acid position 300 (ATG16L1*300T) confers protection, ATG16L1 encoding for alanine instead of threonine (ATG16L1*300A, also known as T300A) mediates risk towards the development of Crohn's disease. Here we report that, in human epithelial cells, the Crohn's disease-associated ATG16L1 coding variant shows impairment in the capture of internalized Salmonella within autophagosomes. Thus, we propose that the association of ATG16L1*300A with increased risk of Crohn's disease is due to impaired bacterial handling and lowered rates of bacterial capture by autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2566595  PMID: 18852889
3.  ATG16L1 and NOD2 interact in an autophagy-dependent, anti-bacterial pathway implicated in Crohn's disease pathogenesis 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(5):1630-1641.e2.
Background & Aims
The identification of numerous genes that confer susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD) indicates that this complex disease might arise from alterations in several genes with related functions. We examined the functional interaction between the CD risk genes autophagy-related 16-like protein 1 (ATG16L1) and nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 2 (NOD2) to identify an autophagy-dependent pathway that is altered by disease-associated variants.
We assessed Nod2 signaling and autophagy activation in response to muramyl dipeptide (MDP) by immunoblot, confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, reporter gene, and gentamycin protection assays in human epithelial cell lines and primary human macrophages and dendritic cells from healthy individuals. The requirement of Nod2 and ATG16L1 expression and the effects of CD-associated variants in MDP-stimulated autophagy and Nod2-dependent signaling were assessed in cell lines manipulated by RNA interference, inhibitors, or ATG16L1 or NOD2 variants and in primary macrophages and dendritic cells from healthy, genotyped donors.
MDP stimulation of epithelial cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells activated autophagy and NF-κB and MAPK signaling; it also increased killing of Salmonella. These responses depended on ATG16L1 and Nod2 expression and were impaired by CD-associated NOD2 variants. Nod2-dependent signaling was not impaired in cells with the ATG16L1 T300A genotype, which is associated with CD. However, the ATG16L1 T300A variant blocked the increase in MDP-mediated killing of Salmonella only in epithelial cell lines and not primary macrophages or dendritic cells.
ATG16L1 and NOD2 are components of an autophagy-mediated, anti-bacterial pathway that is altered in a cell- and function-specific manner by CD-associated mutations.
PMCID: PMC2967588  PMID: 20637199
CARD15; inflammatory bowel disease; genetics; mucosal immunity
4.  Crohn’s disease: NOD2, autophagy and ER stress converge 
Gut  2011;60(11):1580-1588.
Polymorphisms in NOD2, encoding an intracellular pattern recognition receptor, contribute the largest fraction of genetic risk for Crohn’s disease among the >40 risk loci identified so far. Autophagy plays a prominent role in the innate immune response towards intracellular bacteria. The discovery of the autophagy genes ATG16L1 and IRGM as risk factors for Crohn’s disease turned autophagy into the spotlight in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Remarkably, NOD2 has recently been identified as a potent autophagy inducer. A physical interaction of NOD2 and ATG16L1 appears to be required for autophagic clearance of intracellular pathogens. Moreover, Crohn’s disease-associated NOD2 and ATG16L1 variants exhibit a defect in the induction of an autophagic response and hence predict autophagy as a key converging mechanism that leads to Crohn’s disease. Another pathway that is closely intertwined with autophagy and mutually cross-regulated is the unfolded protein response (UPR), which is induced by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Genes involved in the UPR (XBP1, ORMDL3) have also been genetically associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Moreover, the intestinal epithelium at the interface between host and microbe appears particularly affected by IBD-associated hypomorphic function of autophagy and the UPR. The functional convergence of main genetic risk factors for IBD on these innate immune pathways has hence important implications for the host’s interaction with the microbiota. Moreover, the genetic convergence on these molecular mechanisms may open novel therapeutic options for IBD that deserve further exploration.
PMCID: PMC3897479  PMID: 21252204
5.  T300A polymorphism of ATG16L1 and susceptibility to inflammatory bowel diseases: A meta-analysis 
AIM: To evaluate the association of the autophagy-related 16-like 1 (ATG16L1) T300A polymorphism (rs2241880) with predisposition to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) by means of meta-analysis.
METHODS: Publications addressing the relationship between rs2241880/T300A polymorphism of ATG16L1 and Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) were selected from the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. To make direct comparisons between the data collected in these studies, the individual authors were contacted when necessary to generate a standardized set of data from these studies. From these data, odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated.
RESULTS: Twenty-five studies of CD were analyzed, 14 of which involved cases of UC. The variant G allele of ATG16L1 was positively associated with CD (OR = 1.32, 95% CI: 1.26-1.39, P < 0.00001) and UC (OR = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.01-1.10, P = 0.02). For child-onset IBD, a higher G allele frequency was found for cases of CD (OR = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.16-1.57, P = 0.0001) than for cases of UC (OR = 0.98, 95% CI: 0.81-1.19, P = 0.84) relative to controls.
CONCLUSION: The ATG16L1 T300A polymorphism contributes to susceptibility to CD and UC in adults, but different in children, which implicates a role for autophagy in the pathogenesis of IBD.
PMCID: PMC2839180  PMID: 20222171
ATG16L1; Inflammatory bowel diseases; Crohn’s disease; Ulcerative colitis; Meta-analysis
6.  NOD2, IL23R and ATG16L1 polymorphisms in Lithuanian patients with inflammatory bowel disease 
AIM: To investigate the frequency of NOD2, IL23R and ATG16L1 genetic variants in a case-control panel for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) from Lithuania.
METHODS: One hundred and eighty unrelated IBD patients [57 Crohn’s disease (CD) and 123 ulcerative colitis (UC)] and 186 healthy controls were genotyped for the following known genetic susceptibility variants: NOD2 - Arg702Trp (rs2066844), Gly908Arg (rs2066845) and Leu1007insC (rs2066847), as well as IL23R - Arg381Gln (rs11209026) and ATG16L1 - Thr300Ala (rs2241880).
RESULTS: The effect that carriership of at least one NOD2 risk allele predisposes to CD was replicated in the Lithuanian population (41.1% CD vs 16.9% controls, P = 2 × 10-4, OR = 3.48, 95% CI: 1.81-6.72). In the allelic single marker analysis, Leu1007insC was strongly associated with CD (21.4% CD vs 4.7% controls, P = 3.687 × 10-8, OR = 5.54, 95% CI: 2.85-10.75). Neither the other two NOD2 variants, nor the known variants in IL23R and ATG16L1 were found to be risk factors for CD, UC or IBD. However, our relatively small study population was underpowered to demonstrate such weak to moderate disease associations.
CONCLUSION: The results support a strong association between CD susceptibility and the Leu1007insC variant in NOD2 in the Lithuanian study population.
PMCID: PMC2807958  PMID: 20082483
NOD2; IL23R; ATG16L1; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Crohn’s disease; Ulcerative colitis; Lithuania
7.  Evaluation of 22 genetic variants with Crohn's Disease risk in the Ashkenazi Jewish population: a case-control study 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:63.
Crohn's disease (CD) has the highest prevalence among individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) descent compared to non-Jewish Caucasian populations (NJ). We evaluated a set of well-established CD-susceptibility variants to determine if they can explain the increased CD risk in the AJ population.
We recruited 369 AJ CD patients and 503 AJ controls, genotyped 22 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at or near 10 CD-associated genes, NOD2, IL23R, IRGM, ATG16L1, PTGER4, NKX2-3, IL12B, PTPN2, TNFSF15 and STAT3, and assessed their association with CD status. We generated genetic scores based on the risk allele count alone and the risk allele count weighed by the effect size, and evaluated their predictive value.
Three NOD2 SNPs, two IL23R SNPs, and one SNP each at IRGM and PTGER4 were independently associated with CD risk. Carriage of 7 or more copies of these risk alleles or the weighted genetic risk score of 7 or greater correctly classified 92% (allelic count score) and 83% (weighted score) of the controls; however, only 29% and 47% of the cases were identified as having the disease, respectively. This cutoff was associated with a >4-fold increased disease risk (p < 10e-16).
CD-associated genetic risks were similar to those reported in NJ population and are unlikely to explain the excess prevalence of the disease in AJ individuals. These results support the existence of novel, yet unidentified, genetic variants unique to this population. Understanding of ethnic and racial differences in disease susceptibility may help unravel the pathogenesis of CD leading to new personalized diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC3212904  PMID: 21548950
Crohn's Disease; Ashkenazi Jewish; genetic risk score
8.  A unique role for autophagy and Atg16L1 in Paneth cells in murine and human intestine 
Nature  2008;456(7219):259-263.
Susceptibility to Crohn's disease (CD), a complex inflammatory disease involving the small intestine, is controlled by up to 32 loci1. One CD risk allele is in ATG16L1, a gene homologous to the essential yeast autophagy gene ATG162. It is not known how Atg16L1 or autophagy contributes to intestinal biology or CD pathogenesis. To address these questions we generated and characterized mice that are hypomorphic for Atg16L1 protein expression, and validated conclusions based on studies in these mice by analyzing intestinal tissues that we collected from CD patients carrying the CD risk allele of ATG16L1. We show that Atg16L1 is a bona fide autophagy protein. Within the ileal epithelium, both Atg16L1 and a second essential autophagy protein Atg5 are selectively important for the biology of the Paneth cell, a specialized epithelial cell which functions in part by secretion of granule contents containing antimicrobial peptides and other proteins that alter the intestinal environment3. Atg16L1 and Atg5-deficient Paneth cells exhibited striking abnormalities in the granule exocytosis pathway. In addition, transcriptional analysis revealed an unexpected gain of function specific to Atg16L1-deficient Paneth cells including increased expression of genes involved in PPAR signaling and lipid metabolism, acute phase reactants, as well as two adipocytokines, leptin and adiponectin, known to directly influence intestinal injury responses. Importantly, CD patients homozygous for the ATG16L1 CD risk allele displayed Paneth cell granule abnormalities similar to those observed in autophagy protein-deficient mice and expressed increased levels of leptin protein. Thus, Atg16L1, and likely the process of autophagy, play their role within the intestinal epithelium of mice and CD patients by selective effects on the cell biology and specialized regulatory properties of Paneth cells.
PMCID: PMC2695978  PMID: 18849966
9.  Replication and meta-analysis of 13,000 cases defines the risk for interleukin-23 receptor and autophagy-related 16-like 1 variants in Crohn’s disease 
Variants in the interleukin-23 receptor (IL23R) and the autophagy-related 16-like 1 (ATG16L1) genes have been associated with an increased risk of Crohn’s disease (CD). Both genes were identified through genome-wide association scans and subsequent studies have validated these associations. To assess the effect size of these variants, an independent case-control association study and meta-analysis were performed.
British Caucasian subjects with inflammatory bowel disease (n=500) and 877 ethnically matched controls were genotyped for the disease-associated variants in IL23R and ATG16L1. In addition, meta-analyses of 12,991 patients and 14,598 controls, and 11,909 patients and 15,798 controls, were conducted on independently published data for the associations between IL23R and ATG16L1 variants and CD, respectively.
In the present cohort, both susceptibility variants showed highly significant associations, including IL23R (rs11209026, P=0.0006; OR 0.37; 95% CI 0.21 to 0.67) and ATG16L1 (rs2241880, P=0.0017; OR 1.36; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.66). The meta-analysis based on the random effects model showed similar combined effects for rs11209026 (n=26, OR 0.41; 95% CI 0.37 to 0.46) and rs2241880 (n=25, OR 1.33; 95% CI 1.28 to 1.39). There was no statistically significant gene-gene interaction between caspase recruitment domain (CARD15) variants and the IL23R or ATG16L1 polymorphisms (P=0.44 and P=0.24, respectively).
The present cohort and meta-analysis provides strong evidence that, in addition to CARD15, polymorphisms in both IL23R and ATG16L1 alter susceptibility to CD and that these effects are consistent across all populations of European ancestry; however, only ATG16L1 is relevant to inflammatory bowel disease in the Asian population.
PMCID: PMC2886570  PMID: 20485703
ATG16L1; Crohn’s disease; IL23R; Inflammatory bowel disease; Meta-analysis
10.  Autophagy and Autoimmunity Crosstalks 
Autophagy, initially viewed as a conserved bulk-degradation mechanism, has emerged as a central player in a multitude of immune functions. Autophagy is important in host defense against intracellular and extracellular pathogens, metabolic syndromes, immune cell homeostasis, antigen processing and presentation, and maintenance of tolerance. The observation that the above processes are implicated in triggering or exacerbating autoimmunity raises the possibility that autophagy is involved in mediating autoimmune processes, either directly or as a consequence of innate or adaptive functions mediated by the pathway. Genome-wide association studies have shown association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in autophagy related gene 5 (Atg5), and Atg16l1 with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Crohn’s disease, respectively. Enhanced expression of Atg5 was also reported in blood of mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), and in T cells isolated from blood or brain tissues from patients with active relapse of MS. This review explores the roles of autophagy pathway in the innate and adaptive immune systems on regulating or mediating the onset, progression, or exacerbation of autoimmune processes.
PMCID: PMC3625920  PMID: 23596443
autophagy; autophagosome; autoimmunity; encephalomyelitis; autoimmune; experimental; lupus erythematosus; systemic
11.  ATG16L1 and pathogenesis of urinary tract infections 
Autophagy  2012;8(11):1693-1694.
Autophagy is generally considered to be antipathogenic. The autophagy gene ATG16L1 has a commonly occurring mutation associated with Crohn disease (CD) and intestinal cell abnormalities. Mice hypomorphic for ATG16L1 (ATG16L1HM) recreate specific features of CD. Our recent study shows that the same ATG16L1HM mice that are susceptible to intestinal inflammatory disease are protected from urinary tract infections (UTI), a common and important human disease primarily caused by uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC). UPEC colonize the bladder and exhibit both luminal and intra-epithelial stages. The host responds by recruiting innate immune cells and shedding infected epithelial cells to clear infection. Despite these countermeasures, UPEC can persist within the bladder epithelium as membrane-enclosed quiescent intracellular reservoirs (QIRs) that can seed recurrent UTI. The mechanisms of persistence remain unknown. In this study, we show that ATG16L1 deficiency protects the host against acute UTI and UPEC latency. ATG16L1HM mice clear urinary bacterial loads more rapidly and thoroughly due to ATG16L1-deficient innate immune components. Furthermore, ATG16L1HM mice exhibit superficial urothelial cell-autonomous architectural aberrations that also result in significantly reduced QIR numbers. Our findings reveal a host-protective effect of ATG16L1 deficiency in vivo against a common pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3494604  PMID: 22874553
Atg16L1; Atg5; Crohn disease; autophagy; bladder; urinary tract infections; uropathogenic E. coli
12.  Pattern recognition receptor and autophagy gene variants are associated with development of antimicrobial antibodies in Crohn’s disease 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2012;18(9):1743-1748.
We sought to investigate whether variants in genes involved in bacterial sensing and autophagy (NOD2, TLR5, IRGM, ATG16L1) and the interleukin-23 signalling pathway (IL12B, IL23R, STAT3) were associated with development of antimicrobial antibodies in patients with Crohn’s disease (CD).
A cohort of 616 CD patients from a tertiary referral hospital (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto) was evaluated. DNA was tested for three CD-associated NOD2 variants (3020insC, G908R, R702W), variants in IRGM, ATG16L1, IL12B, IL23R, STAT3, and a TLR5-stop mutation. Serum was analyzed by ELISA for anti-Saccharomyces cervesiase (ASCA) IgG and IgA, anti-outer membrane protein C (anti-ompC), anti-Cbir1 flagellin, and anti-Pseudomonas fluorescens (anti-I2).
NOD2 3020insC was associated with cumulative seroreactivity by quartile sum (p=0.003) and number of positive antibodies (p=0.02). NOD2 G908R was also associated with quartile sum (p=0.05). Increased ASCA seropositivity was associated with NOD2 3020insC (odds ratio (OR)= 1.9, p=0.02) and G908R (OR=1.8, p=0.05), and ATG16L1 T300A (OR=1.4, p=0.01) variants; ASCA positive patients had an increased cumulative number of NOD2 3020insC and ATG16L1 T300A variants (p=0.007). TLR5-stop mutation abrogated development of anti-flagellin in a dominant-negative fashion (OR=0.5, p=0.009). The IRGM CD risk variant was associated with increased anti-flagellin seropositivity (OR=1.5, p=0.03). IL12B, IL23R, and STAT3 variants did not contribute to development of anti-microbial antibodies.
Variants in innate immune genes involved in pattern recognition and autophagy but not the IL-23 signaling pathway influence antimicrobial seroreactivity in CD. In particular, the additive effect of NOD2 3020insC and ATG16L1 T300A suggests a role for autophagy in development of ASCA.
PMCID: PMC3418471  PMID: 22275320
Inflammatory bowel disease; biomarkers; ASCA; genetics; NOD2
13.  Genotype/Phenotype Analyses for 53 Crohn’s Disease Associated Genetic Polymorphisms 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52223.
Background & Aims
Recent studies reported a role for more than 70 genes or loci in the susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD). However, the impact of these associations in clinical practice remains to be defined. The aim of the study was to analyse the relationship between genotypes and phenotypes for the main 53 CD-associated polymorphisms.
A cohort of 798 CD patients with a median follow up of 7 years was recruited by tertiary adult and paediatric gastroenterological centres. A detailed phenotypic description of the disease was recorded, including clinical presentation, response to treatments and complications. The participants were genotyped for 53 CD-associated variants previously reported in the literature and correlations with clinical sub-phenotypes were searched for. A replication cohort consisting of 722 CD patients was used to further explore the putative associations.
The NOD2 rare variants were associated with an earlier age at diagnosis (p = 0.0001) and an ileal involvement (OR = 2.25[1.49–3.41] and 2.77 [1.71–4.50] for rs2066844 and rs2066847, respectively). Colonic lesions were positively associated with the risk alleles of IL23R rs11209026 (OR = 2.25 [1.13–4.51]) and 6q21 rs7746082 (OR = 1.60 [1.10–2.34] and negatively associated with the risk alleles of IRGM rs13361189 (OR = 0.29 [0.11–0.74]) and DEFB1 rs11362 (OR = 0.50 [0.30–0.80]). The ATG16L1 and IRGM variants were associated with a non-inflammatory behaviour (OR = 1.75 [1.22–2.53] and OR = 1.50 [1.04–2.16] respectively). However, these associations lost significance after multiple testing corrections. The protective effect of the IRGM risk allele on colonic lesions was the only association replicated in the second cohort (p = 0.03).
It is not recommended to genotype the studied polymorphisms in routine practice.
PMCID: PMC3531408  PMID: 23300620
14.  Autophagy and Crohn's Disease: At the Crossroads of Infection, Inflammation, Immunity, and Cancer 
Current molecular medicine  2010;10(5):486-502.
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are common inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract that include ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). The incidences of IBD are high in North America and Europe, affecting as many as one in 500 people. These diseases are associated with high morbidity and mortality. Colorectal cancer risk is also increased in IBD, correlating with inflammation severity and duration. IBD are now recognized as complex multigenetic disorders involving at least 32 different risk loci. In 2007, two different autophagy-related genes, ATG16L1 (autophagy-related gene 16-like 1) and IRGM (immunity-related GTPase M) were shown to be specifically involved in CD susceptibility by three independent genome-wide association studies. Soon afterwards, more than forty studies confirmed the involvement of ATG16L1 and IRGM variants in CD susceptibility and gave new information on the importance of macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) in the control of infection, inflammation, immunity and cancer. In this review, we discuss how such findings have undoubtedly changed our understanding of CD pathogenesis. A unifying autophagy model then emerges that may help in understanding the development of CD from bacterial infection, to inflammation and finally cancer. The Pandora's box is now open, releasing a wave of hope for new therapeutic strategies in treating Crohn's disease.
PMCID: PMC3655526  PMID: 20540703
Autophagy; Crohn's disease; infection; inflammation; immunity; cancer
15.  A common role for Atg16L1, Atg5, and Atg7 in small intestinal Paneth cells and Crohn’s disease 
Autophagy  2009;5(2):250-252.
Recently identified genetic determinants for enhanced susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD) included polymorphisms in the ATG16L1 and IRGM1 loci suggesting that the autophagy pathway plays a role in the pathogenesis of this disease. We have generated and analyzed three mouse models with diminished expression of autophagy proteins and show how the loss of function of various autophagy components contributes to CD pathogenesis. In the mouse small intestine, the common cellular target of Atg16L1, Atg5, and Atg7 is the Paneth cell, a specialized epithelial cell whose main function is the delivery of antimicrobial factors into the intestinal lumen by production and secretion of its characteristic cytoplasmic granules. Autophagy-deficient Paneth cells exhibited a striking loss of function in this granule exocytosis pathway. Transcriptional analysis revealed a gain of function whereby the gene expression associated with inflammatory responses was increased in autophagy-deficient Paneth cells. Importantly, we validated these findings by analyzing intestinal tissues from CD patients. Similar Paneth cell abnormalities were observed in CD patients homozygous for the ATG16L1 risk allele. Thus, one role for the autophagy pathway in CD pathogenesis is through selective effects on the biology and specialized properties of Paneth cells.
PMCID: PMC2940227  PMID: 19139628
ATG16L1; ATG5; ATG7; Paneth cell; Crohn’s disease; inflammatory bowel disease; intestine; exocytosis; adipocytokine; PPAR
16.  CARD15/NOD2 gene variants are associated with familially occurring and complicated forms of Crohn’s disease 
Gut  2003;52(4):558-562.
Background: Variants of the caspase activating recruitment domain 15/nucleotide oligomerisation domain 2 (CARD15/NOD2) gene have been associated with susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD).
Aim: Our aim was to evaluate the allele frequencies of the CARD15 variants R702W, G908R, and 1007fs in Finnish inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and to search for possible associations between CARD15 variants and occurrence of familial forms of IBD or complicated forms of CD.
Patients and methods: We investigated 198 sporadic CD patients, 46 probands with familial CD, 27 CD probands from mixed IBD families, 99 unrelated patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 300 control individuals for the occurrence of the CARD15 gene variants R702W, G908R, and 1007fs.
Results: In CD patients, the allele frequencies for the rare variants of these polymorphisms were 3.3%, 0.6%, and 4.8% (total 8.7%), and the corresponding frequencies in healthy controls were 1.8%, 0%, and 1.7% (total 3.5%) (8.7% v 3.5%; p<0.01). In UC patients allele frequencies were comparable with those in controls. The frequency of the 1007fs polymorphism variant allele was significantly higher among all CD patients than in controls (4.8% v 1.7%; p<0.01) but there was no significant difference in allele frequencies between the CD and UC groups. The 1007fs allele frequency was higher in familial CD than in non-familial cases with CD (10.9% v 3.5%; p<0.01). There were no significant differences in the allele frequencies of the R702W and G908R polymorphisms between CD patients, UC patients, and controls. We found that 15.5% of CD patients, 9.1% of UC patients, and 6.7% of controls carried at least one of the CARD15 variants. In CD patients carrying at least one of the three NOD2 variants, the ileum was affected more often than in non-carrier CD patients (90% v 73%; p<0.05), they had stricturing or penetrating disease more often than non-carriers (88% v 56%; p<0.01), and they had an increased need for bowel surgery.
Conclusions: The frequency of NOD2 gene variants was lower in genetically homogenous Finns than in other populations. The 1007fs variant was associated with CD. The occurrence of CARD15 variants predicted ileal location as well as stricturing and penetrating forms of CD.
PMCID: PMC1773614  PMID: 12631669
CARD15 gene; disease phenotype; Crohn’s disease
17.  Functional Consequences of the Macrophage Stimulating Protein 689C Inflammatory Bowel Disease Risk Allele 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83958.
Macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) is a serum growth factor that binds to and activates the receptor tyrosine kinase, Recepteur d'Origine Nantais (RON). A non-synonymous coding variant in MSP (689C) has been associated with genetic susceptibility to both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, two major types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. We investigated the consequences of this polymorphism for MSP-RON pathway activity and IBD pathogenesis.
RON expression patterns were examined on mouse and human cells and tissues under normal and disease conditions to identify cell types regulated by MSP-RON. Recombinant MSP variants were tested for their ability to bind and stimulate RON and undergo proteolytic activation. MSP concentrations were quantified in the serum of individuals carrying the MSP 689R and 689C alleles.
In intestinal tissue, RON was primarily expressed by epithelial cells under normal and disease conditions. The 689C polymorphism had no impact on the ability of MSP to bind to or signal through RON. In a cohort of normal individuals and IBD patients, carriers of the 689C polymorphism had lower concentrations of MSP in their serum.
By reducing the quantities of circulating MSP, the 689C polymorphism, or a variant in linkage disequilibrium with this polymorphism, may impact RON ligand availability and thus receptor activity. Given the known functions of RON in regulating wound healing and our analysis of RON expression patterns in human intestinal tissue, these data suggest that decreased RON activity may impact the efficiency of epithelial repair and thus underlie the increased IBD susceptibility associated with the MSP 689C allele.
PMCID: PMC3884107  PMID: 24409221
18.  Contributions of IBD5, IL23R, ATG16L1, and NOD2 to Crohn’s Disease Risk in a Population-Based Case-Control Study: Evidence of Gene–Gene Interactions 
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases  2008;14(11):1528-1541.
IBD5, IL23R, and ATG16L1 genetic variations are established Crohn’s disease (CD) risks alleles. We evaluated these in a population-based case-control study within a cohort to determine their penetrance, population attributable risk, independence, and relationship to other established CD risk factors, including NOD2.
DNA from 213 CD, 118 ulcerative colitis, and 315 healthy control subjects from the population-based University of Manitoba IBD Research Registry were genotyped for IBD5 and IL23R single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and for the Thr300Ala ATG16L1 SNP. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed for these and nongenetic risk factors. We introduce multidimensionality reduction (MDR) to explore gene– gene interactions.
ATG16L1, IBD5, and IL23R SNPs were significantly associated with CD. Multivariate analysis showed independent CD association for carriers of ATG16L1 (odds ratio [OR] = 1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09–3.24), IBD5-IGR2230 (OR = 2.16, 95% CI 1.30–3.59), and IL23R-rs10889677 (OR = 2.13, 95% CI 1.39–3.28) while retaining association for NOD2 mutation carriers (OR = 4.45, 95% CI 2.68–7.38), IBD family history (OR = 2.75, 95% CI 1.42–5.31), tobacco (OR = 2.06, 95% CI 1.35–3.14), and Jewish ethnicity (OR = 20.1, 95% CI 2.16–186.8). IL23R minor variants for Arg381Gln and Intron 6 rs7517848 showed independent, CD protection and 3′ untranslated variant rs108896778 showed risk. MDR analysis suggested an interaction between IBD5, ATG16L1, and IL23R risk alleles. Penetrance values for ATG16L1 and IBD5 were 0.27% for heterozygotes, and 0.35% and 0.44%, respectively, for homozygotes. IL23R rs108896778 penetrance was 0.37%.
A population-based analysis of CD risk factors is useful for characterizing the epidemiology of multiple CD genetic and nongenetic risk factors. Gene– gene interactions are likely, but require further evaluation in large population-based cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3336049  PMID: 18521914
Crohn’s disease; IL23R; ATG16L1; IBD5; genetics
19.  Identifying Recent Adaptations in Large-scale Genomic Data 
Cell  2013;152(4):703-713.
While several hundred regions of the human genome harbor signals of positive natural selection, few of the relevant adaptive traits and variants have been elucidated. Using full-genome sequence variation from the 1000 Genomes Project (1000G) and the Composite of Multiple Signals (CMS) test, we investigated 412 candidate signals and leveraged functional annotation, protein structure modeling, epigenetics, and association studies to identify and extensively annotate candidate causal variants. The resulting catalog provides a tractable list for experimental follow-up; it includes thirty-five high-scoring non-synonymous variants, fifty-nine variants associated with expression levels of a nearby coding gene or lincRNA, and numerous variants associated with susceptibility to infectious disease and other phenotypes. We experimentally characterized one candidate non-synonymous variant in TLR5, and show that it leads to altered NF-κB signaling in response to bacterial flagellin.
PMCID: PMC3674781  PMID: 23415221
20.  Virus-Plus-Susceptibility Gene Interaction Determines Crohn’s Disease Gene Atg16L1 Phenotypes in Intestine 
Cell  2010;141(7):1135-1145.
It is unclear why disease occurs in only a small proportion of persons carrying common risk alleles of disease susceptibility genes. Here we demonstrate that an interaction between a specific virus infection and a mutation in the Crohn’s disease susceptibility gene Atg16L1 induces intestinal pathologies in mice. This virus-plus-susceptibility gene interaction generated abnormalities in granule packaging and unique patterns of gene expression in Paneth cells. Further, the response to injury induced by the toxic substance dextran sodium sulfate was fundamentally altered to include pathologies resembling aspects of Crohn’s disease. These pathologies triggered by virus-plus-susceptibility gene interaction were dependent on TNFα and IFNγ and were prevented by treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics. Thus, we provide a specific example of how a virus-plus-susceptibility gene interaction can, in combination with additional environmental factors and commensal bacteria, determine the phenotype of hosts carrying common risk alleles for inflammatory disease.
PMCID: PMC2908380  PMID: 20602997
21.  Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, Genetic Susceptibility to Crohn's Disease, and Sardinians: the Way Ahead 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(10):5275-5277.
The present study was performed to determine what proportion of people in Sardinia with or without Crohn's disease were infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis and had a preponderance of allelic variants of Nod2, an intracellular protein involved in Crohn's disease susceptibility. Genetic analysis of the alleles of the NOD2/CARD15 gene (insC3020, G908R, and R702W alleles), linked to susceptibility or genetic predisposition to Crohn's disease in humans, was carried out on specimens from 37 Crohn's disease patients and 34 patients without Crohn's disease. Our results show that more than 70 percent of people in Sardinia with Crohn's disease carry at least one of the susceptibility-associated NOD2/CARD15 alleles and were infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC1248481  PMID: 16207995
22.  Genetic variants associated with Crohn’s disease 
Crohn’s disease is an immune-related disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal mucosa, which can occur in any area throughout the digestive tract. This life-long disease commonly presents with abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. While the exact etiology of this disease is largely unknown, it is thought to arise from an interaction between microbial, immunological, and environmental factors in a genetically susceptible host, whereby the immune system attacks the intestine as it cross reacts against gut microbial antigens. The study of genetic variants associated with Crohn’s disease has shed light on our understanding of disease pathophysiology. A large number of genetic variants identified in Crohn’s disease are related to genes targeting microbial recognition and bacterial wall sensing, the most common being NOD2/CARD15 gene. This review will discuss the recent advance in our knowledge of genetic variants of this disease and how they influence the disease course and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3735034  PMID: 23935379
Crohn’s disease; genetics; autophagy
23.  Interaction of Crohn's Disease Susceptibility Genes in an Australian Paediatric Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15376.
Genetic susceptibility is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease (CD). We investigated multiple CD susceptibility genes in an Australian paediatric onset CD cohort. Newly diagnosed paediatric onset CD patients (n = 72) and controls (n = 98) were genotyped for 34 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 18 genetic loci. Gene-gene interaction analysis, gene-disease phenotype analysis and genetic risk profiling were performed for all SNPs and all genes. Of the 34 SNPs analysed, four polymorphisms on three genes (NOD2, IL23R, and region 3p21) were significantly associated with CD status (p<0.05). All three CD specific paediatric polymorphisms on PSMG1 and TNFRSF6B showed a trend of association with p<0.1. An additive gene-gene interaction involving TLR4, PSMG1, TNFRSF6B and IRGM was identified with CD. Genes involved in microbial processing (TLR4, PSMG1, NOD2) were significantly associated either at the individual level or in gene-gene interactive roles. Colonic disease was significantly associated with disease SNP rs7517847 (IL23R) (p<0.05) and colonic and ileal/colonic disease was significantly associated with disease SNP rs125221868 (IBD5) and SLC22A4 & SLC22A4/5 variants (p<0.05). We were able to demonstrate genetic association of several genes to CD in a paediatric onset cohort. Several of the observed associations have not been reported previously in association with paediatric CD patients. Our findings demonstrate that CD genetic susceptibility in paediatric patients presents as a complex interaction between numerous genes.
PMCID: PMC2975706  PMID: 21079743
24.  Functional IL6R 358Ala Allele Impairs Classical IL-6 Receptor Signaling and Influences Risk of Diverse Inflammatory Diseases 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003444.
Inflammation, which is directly regulated by interleukin-6 (IL-6) signaling, is implicated in the etiology of several chronic diseases. Although a common, non-synonymous variant in the IL-6 receptor gene (IL6R Asp358Ala; rs2228145 A>C) is associated with the risk of several common diseases, with the 358Ala allele conferring protection from coronary heart disease (CHD), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), atrial fibrillation (AF), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), and increased susceptibility to asthma, the variant's effect on IL-6 signaling is not known. Here we provide evidence for the association of this non-synonymous variant with the risk of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in two independent populations and confirm that rs2228145 is the major determinant of the concentration of circulating soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R) levels (34.6% increase in sIL-6R per copy of the minor allele 358Ala; rs2228145 [C]). To further investigate the molecular mechanism of this variant, we analyzed expression of IL-6R in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in 128 volunteers from the Cambridge BioResource. We demonstrate that, although 358Ala increases transcription of the soluble IL6R isoform (P = 8.3×10−22) and not the membrane-bound isoform, 358Ala reduces surface expression of IL-6R on CD4+ T cells and monocytes (up to 28% reduction per allele; P≤5.6×10−22). Importantly, reduced expression of membrane-bound IL-6R resulted in impaired IL-6 responsiveness, as measured by decreased phosphorylation of the transcription factors STAT3 and STAT1 following stimulation with IL-6 (P≤5.2×10−7). Our findings elucidate the regulation of IL-6 signaling by IL-6R, which is causally relevant to several complex diseases, identify mechanisms for new approaches to target the IL-6/IL-6R axis, and anticipate differences in treatment response to IL-6 therapies based on this common IL6R variant.
Author Summary
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a complex cytokine, which plays a critical role in the regulation of inflammatory responses. Genetic variation in the IL-6 receptor gene is associated with the risk of several human diseases with an inflammatory component, including coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. A common non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism in this gene (Asp358Ala) has been suggested to be the causal variant in this region by affecting the circulatory concentrations of soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R). In this study we extend the genetic association of this variant to type 1 diabetes and provide evidence that this variant exerts its functional mechanism by regulating the balance between sIL-6R (generated through cleavage of the surface receptor and by alternative splicing of a soluble IL6R isoform) and membrane-bound IL-6R. These data show for the first time that the minor allele of this non-synonymous variant (Ala358) directly controls the surface levels of IL-6R on individual immune cells and that these differences in protein levels translate into a functional impairment in IL-6R signaling. These findings may have implications for clinical trials targeting inflammatory mechanisms involving IL-6R signaling and may provide tools for identifying patients with specific benefit from therapeutic intervention in the IL-6R signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3617094  PMID: 23593036
25.  A CARD9 Polymorphism Is Associated with Decreased Likelihood of Persistent Conjugated Hyperbilirubinemia in Intestinal Failure 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85915.
Recently, genetic associations have been described in intestinal transplants. Namely, Crohn's disease susceptibility gene NOD2 polymorphisms have been reported to be more prevalent in patients with graft failure following intestinal transplantation (IT). Therefore, we sought to determine if polymorphisms in the NOD2 signaling cascade, including NOD2, CARD9, RAC1 and ATG16L1 are associated with intestinal failure (IF) or its complications. We carried out a cross-sectional study of 59 children with IF and 500 healthy Caucasian controls. Using the Taqman platform we determined the prevalence of NOD2 as well as ATG16L1, RAC1 and CARD9 SNPs. NOD2 pathway polymorphisms were evaluated in relation to outcomes of episodes of sepsis, ICU admissions, hyperbilirubinemia and need for IT. We found that the minor allele of a CARD9 SNP was associated with protection from developing IF when compared to healthy controls and was also associated with decreased odds of sustained conjugated hyperbilirubinemia. Therefore, IF patients with CARD9 polymorphism are less likely to develop progressive liver disease and suggests that host innate immunity may play a role in IF associated liver disease.
PMCID: PMC3897546  PMID: 24465786

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