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1.  Aicardi-Goutières syndrome and related phenotypes: linking nucleic acid metabolism with autoimmunity 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(R2):R130-R136.
Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS) is a genetically determined encephalopathy demonstrating phenotypic overlap both with the sequelae of congenital infection and with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Recent molecular advances have revealed that AGS can be caused by mutations in any one of five genes, most commonly on a recessive basis but occasionally as a dominant trait. Like AGS, SLE is associated with a perturbation of type I interferon metabolism. Interestingly then, heterozygous mutations in the AGS1 gene TREX1 underlie a cutaneous subtype of SLE-called familial chilblain lupus, and mutations in TREX1 represent the single most common cause of monogenic SLE identified to date. Evidence is emerging to show that the nucleases defective in AGS are involved in removing endogenously produced nucleic acid (NA) species, and that a failure of this removal results in activation of the immune system. This hypothesis explains the phenotypic overlap of AGS with congenital infection and some aspects of SLE, where an equivalent type I interferon-mediated innate immune response is triggered by viral and self NAs, respectively. The combined efforts of clinicians, geneticists, immunologists and cell biologists are producing rapid progress in the understanding of AGS and overlapping autoimmune disorders. These studies provide important insights into the pathogenesis of SLE and beg urgent questions about the development and use of immunosuppressive therapies in AGS and related phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2758706  PMID: 19808788
2.  Rare Variants in the TREX1 Gene and Susceptibility to Autoimmune Diseases 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:471703.
TREX1 (DNase III) is an exonuclease involved in response to oxidative stress and apoptosis. Heterozygous mutations in TREX1 were previously observed in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren's syndrome (SS). We performed a mutational analysis of the TREX1 gene on three autoimmune diseases: SLE (210 patients) and SS (58 patients), to confirm a TREX1 involvement in the Italian population, and systemic sclerosis (SSc, 150 patients) because it shares similarities with SLE (presence of antinuclear antibodies and connective tissue damage). We observed 7 variations; two of these are novel nonsynonymous variants (p.Glu198Lys and p.Met232Val). They were detected in one SS and in one SSc patient, respectively, and in none of the 200 healthy controls typed in this study and of the 1712 published controls. In silico analysis predicts a possibly damaging role on protein function for both variants. The other 5 variations are synonymous and only one of them is novel (p.Pro48Pro). This study contributes to the demonstration that TREX1 is involved in autoimmune diseases and proposes that the spectrum of involved autoimmune diseases can be broader and includes SSc. We do not confirm a role of TREX1 variants in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3810194  PMID: 24224166
3.  New roles for the major human 3'–5' exonuclease TREX1 in human disease 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2008;7(12):1718-1725.
Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Familial Chilblain Lupus (FCL) and Retinal Vasculopathy and Cerebral Leukodystrophy (RVCL) {a new term encompassing three independently described conditions with a common etiology—Cerebroretinal Vasculopathy (CRV), Hereditary Vascular Retinopathy (HVR) and Hereditary Endotheliopathy, Retinopathy and Nephropathy (HERNS)}—have previously been regarded as distinct entities. However, recent genetic analysis has demonstrated that each of these diseases maps to chromosome 3p21 and can be caused by mutations in TREX1, the major human 3'–5' exonuclease. In this review, we discuss the putative functions of TREX1 in relationship to the clinical, genetic and functional characteristics of each of these conditions.
PMCID: PMC2825026  PMID: 18583934
TREX1; TREX2; DNase III; stroke; cerebrovascular disease
4.  An autoimmune disease prevented by anti-retroviral drugs 
Retrovirology  2011;8:91.
Both Aicardi-Goutières syndrome, a Mendelian mimic of congenital infection, and the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus can result from mutations in the gene encoding the enzyme Trex1. In mice, the absence of Trex1 causes severe myocarditis. The enzyme is thought to degrade endogenous retroelements, thus linking them to autoimmune disease. However, inhibition of reverse transcription by the inhibitor zidovudine (AZT) did not ameliorate the disease, weakening the link to retroelements.
Here, we show that two other FDA-approved drugs that inhibit reverse transcriptase can ameliorate the myocarditis in Trex1-null mouse.
The result suggests that retroelements contribute to this hereditary form of autoimmunity, and that treatment with retroelement inhibitors might ameliorate Aicardi-Goutières syndrome in humans.
PMCID: PMC3264515  PMID: 22067273
Aicardi-Goutières syndrome; myocarditis; Trex1; reverse transcriptase inhibitors
5.  Trex1 prevents cell-intrinsic initiation of autoimmunity 
Cell  2008;134(4):587-598.
Detection of nucleic acids and induction of type I interferons (IFNs) are principal elements of antiviral defense, but can cause autoimmunity if misregulated. Cytosolic DNA detection activates a potent, cell-intrinsic antiviral response through a poorly defined pathway. In a screen for proteins relevant to this interferon-stimulatory DNA (ISD) response, we identify 3’ repair exonuclease 1 (Trex1). Mutations in the human trex1 gene cause Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome (AGS) and chilblain lupus, but the molecular basis of these diseases is unknown. We define Trex1 as an essential negative regulator of the ISD response and delineate the genetic pathway linking Trex1 deficiency to lethal autoimmunity. We show that single-stranded DNA derived from endogenous retroelements accumulates in Trex1-deficient cells and that Trex1 can metabolize reverse-transcribed DNA. These findings reveal a cell-intrinsic mechanism for initiation of autoimmunity, implicate the ISD pathway as the cause of AGS, and suggest an unanticipated contribution of endogenous retroelements to autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2626626  PMID: 18724932
6.  Defects in DNA degradation revealed in crystal structures of TREX1 exonuclease mutations linked to autoimmune disease 
DNA Repair  2011;11(1):65-73.
Mutations within the human TREX1 3' exonuclease are associated with Aicardi-Goutières Syndrome (AGS) and familial chilblain lupus (FCL). Both AGS and FCL are autoimmune diseases that result in increased levels of interferon alpha and circulating antibodies to DNA. TREX1 is a member of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated SET complex and participates in granzyme A-mediated cell death to degrade nicked genomic DNA. The loss of TREX1 activity may result in the accumulation of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) degradation intermediates that trigger autoimmune activation. The X-ray crystal structures of the TREX1 wt apoprotein, the dominant D200H, D200N and D18N homodimer mutants derived from AGS and FCL patients, as well as the recessive V201D homodimer mutant have been determined. The structures of the D200H and D200N mutant proteins reveal the enzyme has lost coordination of one of the active site metals, and the catalytic histidine (H195) is trapped in a conformation pointing away from the active site. The TREX1 D18N and V201D mutants are able to bind both metals in the active site, but with inter-metal distances that are larger than optimal for catalysis. Additionally, all of the mutant structures reveal a reduced mobility in the catalytic histidine, providing further explanation for the loss of catalytic activity. The structures of the mutant TREX1 proteins provide insight into the dysfunction relating to human disease. Additionally, the TREX1 apoprotein structure together with the previously determined wild type substrate and product structures allow us to propose a distinct mechanism for the TREX1 exonuclease.
PMCID: PMC3253924  PMID: 22071149
TREX1; autoimmune disease; protein structure; enzyme mechanism; lupus; exonuclease
7.  Replicated associations of TNFAIP3, TNIP1 and ETS1 with systemic lupus erythematosus in a southwestern Chinese population 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R186.
Recent genome-wide and candidate gene association studies in large numbers of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have suggested approximately 30 susceptibility genes. These genes are involved in three types of biological processes, including immune complex processing, toll-like receptor function and type I interferon production, and immune signal transduction in lymphocytes, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of SLE. To better understand the genetic risk factors of SLE, we investigated the associations of seven SLE susceptibility genes in a Chinese population, including FCGR3A, FCGR2A, TNFAIP3, TLR9, TREX1, ETS1 and TNIP1.
A total of 20 SNPs spanning the seven SLE susceptibility genes were genotyped in a sample of 564 unrelated SLE patients and 504 unrelated healthy controls recruited from Yunnan, southwestern China. The associations of SNPs with SLE were assessed by statistical analysis.
Five SNPs in two genes (TNFAIP3 and ETS1) were significantly associated with SLE (corrected P values ranging from 0.03 to 5.5 × 10-7). Through stratified analysis, TNFAIP3 and ETS1 showed significant associations with multiple SLE subphenotypes (such as malar rash, arthritis, hematologic disorder and antinuclear antibody) while TNIP1 just showed relatively weak association with onset age. The associations of the SNPs in the other four genes were not replicated.
The replication analysis indicates that TNFAIP3, ETS1 and TNIP1 are probably common susceptibility genes for SLE in Chinese populations, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple SLE subphenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3334635  PMID: 22087647
8.  Trait-stratified genome-wide association study identifies novel and diverse genetic associations with serologic and cytokine phenotypes in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R151.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous disorder, characterized by differences in autoantibody profile, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. SLE-associated autoantibodies and high serum interferon alpha (IFN-α) are important heritable phenotypes in SLE which are correlated with each other, and play a role in disease pathogenesis. These two heritable risk factors are shared between ancestral backgrounds. The aim of the study was to detect genetic factors associated with autoantibody profiles and serum IFN-α in SLE.
We undertook a case-case genome-wide association study of SLE patients stratified by ancestry and extremes of phenotype in serology and serum IFN-α. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in seven loci were selected for follow-up in a large independent cohort of 538 SLE patients and 522 controls using a multi-step screening approach based on novel metrics and expert database review. The seven loci were: leucine-rich repeat containing 20 (LRRC20); protein phosphatase 1 H (PPM1H); lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPAR1); ankyrin repeat and sterile alpha motif domain 1A (ANKS1A); protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type M (PTPRM); ephrin A5 (EFNA5); and V-set and immunoglobulin domain containing 2 (VSIG2).
SNPs in the LRRC20, PPM1H, LPAR1, ANKS1A, and VSIG2 loci each demonstrated strong association with a particular serologic profile (all odds ratios > 2.2 and P < 3.5 × 10-4). Each of these serologic profiles was associated with increased serum IFN-α. SNPs in both PTPRM and LRRC20 were associated with increased serum IFN-α independent of serologic profile (P = 2.2 × 10-6 and P = 2.6 × 10-3 respectively). None of the SNPs were strongly associated with SLE in case-control analysis, suggesting that the major impact of these variants will be upon subphenotypes in SLE.
This study demonstrates the power of using serologic and cytokine subphenotypes to elucidate genetic factors involved in complex autoimmune disease. The distinct associations observed emphasize the heterogeneity of molecular pathogenesis in SLE, and the need for stratification by subphenotypes in genetic studies. We hypothesize that these genetic variants play a role in disease manifestations and severity in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2945049  PMID: 20659327
9.  Autoimmunity initiates in non-hematopoietic cells and progresses via lymphocytes in an interferon-dependent autoimmune disease 
Immunity  2012;36(1):120-131.
The type I interferon (IFN) response initiated by detection of nucleic acids is important for antiviral defense, but is also associated with specific autoimmune diseases. Mutations in the human 3′ repair exonuclease 1 (Trex1) gene cause Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), an IFN-associated autoimmune disease. However, the source of the type I IFN response and the precise mechanisms of disease in AGS remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that Trex1 is an essential negative regulator of the STING-dependent antiviral response. We used an in vivo reporter of IFN activity in Trex1-deficient mice to localize the initiation of disease to non-hematopoietic cells. These IFNs drove T cell-mediated inflammation and an autoantibody response that targeted abundant, tissue-restricted autoantigens. However, B cells contributed to mortality independently of T cell-mediated tissue damage. These findings reveal a stepwise progression of autoimmune disease in Trex1-deficient mice, with implications for the treatment of AGS and related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3269499  PMID: 22284419
10.  Evaluation of TRAF6 in a Large Multi-Ancestral Lupus Cohort 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1960-1969.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease with significant immune system aberrations resulting from complex heritable genetics as well as environmental factors. TRAF6 is a candidate gene for SLE, which has a major role in several signaling pathways that are important for immunity and organ development.
Fifteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), across TRAF6 were evaluated in 7,490 SLE and 6,780 control subjects from different ancestries. Population-based case-control association analyses and meta-analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Evidence of associations in multiple SNPs was detected. The best overall p values were obtained for SNPs rs5030437 and rs4755453 (p=7.85×10−5 and p=4.73×10−5, respectively) without significant heterogeneity among populations (p=0.67 and p=0.50 in Q-statistic). In addition, rs540386 previously reported to be associated with RA was found to be in LD with these two SNPs (r2= 0.95) and demonstrated evidence of association with SLE in the same direction (meta-analysis p=9.15×10−4, OR=0.89, 95%CI=0.83–0.95). Thrombocytopenia improved the overall results in different populations (meta-analysis p=1.99×10−6, OR=0.57, 95%CI=0.45–0.72, for rs5030470). Finally evidence of family based association in 34 African-American pedigrees with the presence of thrombocytopenia were detected in one available SNP rs5030437 with Z score magnitude of 2.28 (p=0.02) under a dominant model.
Our data indicate the presence of association of TRAF6 with SLE in agreement with the previous report of association with RA. These data provide further support for the involvement of TRAF6 in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3380425  PMID: 22231568
TRAF6; polymorphism; systemic lupus erythematosus
11.  The United States to Africa lupus prevalence gradient revisited 
Lupus  2011;20(10):1095-1103.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease that has a significantly higher prevalence, morbidity and mortality in African Americans compared with Americans of European descent. The pathogenesis of lupus is unclear but appears to be a result of environmental factors interacting with a genetically susceptible host. Despite the high disease load of SLE in African Americans, there is the perception that lupus is relatively rare in Africa. This prevalence gradient suggests that comparative studies of related cohorts from the two continents may provide insight into the genetic/environmental interactions that result in the development of lupus. To define if a lupus gradient exists, we began a study of autoimmunity prevalence utilizing two unique cohorts. The first is the Gullah population of the Sea Islands of South Carolina, who are unique in their low genetic admixture and their known ancestral heritage. The second is the population of young women served by the West Africa Fistula Foundation in Bo, Sierra Leone. Anthropologic studies indicate a direct ancestral link between the Gullah population and Sierra Leoneans. Since it is impossible to perform an epidemiologic study of lupus in Sierra Leone at this time, we assessed the prevalence of lupus serum autoantibodies, serologic evidence of specific infections and levels of serum 25-OH vitamin D in young women in the two cohorts who have no known relatives with lupus. Our results indicate similar prevalence of serum antinuclear antibodies in the two cohorts, though there was a significantly increased prevalence of antiphospholipid and anti-Sm antibodies in the Sierra Leone cohort. Seropositivity to common viral infections was significantly higher in women from Sierra Leone, while serum 25-OH vitamin D levels were markedly lower in the Gullah population. These data suggest that the prevalence of autoimmunity is similar in the two populations, but that there are significant environmental differences that may impact progression to autoimmune disease. Further studies comparing these two cohorts is likely to provide important insight into the impact of environmental factors on development of lupus.
PMCID: PMC3535487  PMID: 21917913
African American; lupus; prevalence gradient; vitamin D
12.  Osteopontin Alleles Are Associated with Clinical Characteristics in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Variants of the osteopontin (OPN) gene have been associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility and cytokine profiles in SLE patients. It is not known whether these alleles are associated with specific clinical phenotypes in SLE. We studied 252 well-characterized SLE patients from a multiethnic cohort, genotyping the rs11730582, rs28357094, rs6532040, and rs9138 SNPs in the OPN gene. Ancestry informative markers were used to control for genetic ancestry. The SLE-risk allele rs9138C in the 3′ UTR region was associated with photosensitivity in lupus patients across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 1.6–6.5, P = 1.0 × 10−3). Additionally, the promoter variant rs11730582C demonstrated suggestive evidence for association with two hematologic traits: thrombocytopenia (OR = 2.1, P = 0.023) and hemolytic anemia (OR = 2.6, P = 0.036). These clinical associations with SNPs in the promoter and 3′ UTR regions align with previously reported SLE-susceptibility SNPs in OPN and suggest potential roles for these variants in antibody-mediated cytopenias and skin inflammation in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3205903  PMID: 22131818
13.  MHC region and risk of systemic lupus erythematosus in African-American women 
Human genetics  2011;130(6):807-815.
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.
PMCID: PMC3215804  PMID: 21695597
systemic lupus erythemathosus; African Americans; major histocompatibility complex; single nucleotide polymorphisms
14.  Replication of the genetic effects of IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) on systemic lupus erythematosus in a Korean population 
Recently, two studies provided convincing evidence that IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene polymorphisms are significantly associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in several white populations. To replicate the association with SLE in an Asian population, we examined the genetic effects in our SLE cohort from a Korean population. A total of 1,565 subjects, composed of 593 cases and 972 controls, were genotyped using the TaqMan® (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA) method. The genetic effects of polymorphisms on the risk of SLE were evaluated using χ2 tests and a Mantel–Haenszel meta-analysis. Statistical analysis revealed results in the Korean population were similar to the previous reports from white populations. The rs2004640 T allele had a higher frequency in SLE cases (0.385) than controls (0.321; odds ratio (OR) = 1.32, P = 0.0003). In combined analysis, including all seven independent cohorts from the three studies so far, robust and consistent associations of the rs2004640 T allele with SLE were observed. The estimate of risk was OR = 1.44 (range, 1.34–1.55), with an overall P = 1.85 × 10-23 for the rs2004640 T allele. The haplotype (rs2004640T–rs2280714T) involved in both the alternative splice donor site and the elevated expression of IRF5 also had a highly significant association with SLE (pooled, P = 2.11 × 10-16). Our results indicate that the genetic effect on the risk of SLE mediated by IRF5 variants can be generally accepted in both white and Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC1906810  PMID: 17389033
15.  Evaluation of SLE Susceptibility Genes in Malaysians 
Autoimmune Diseases  2014;2014:305436.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disease with strong genetic and environmental components. Our objective was to replicate 25 recently identified SLE susceptibility genes in two distinct populations (Chinese (CH) and Malays (MA)) from Malaysia. We genotyped 347 SLE cases and 356 controls (CH and MA) using the ImmunoChip array and performed an admixture corrected case-control association analysis. Associated genes were grouped into five immune-related pathways. While CH were largely homogenous, MA had three ancestry components (average 82.3% Asian, 14.5% European, and 3.2% African). Ancestry proportions were significantly different between cases and controls in MA. We identified 22 genes with at least one associated SNP (P < 0.05). The strongest signal was at HLA-DRA (PMeta = 9.96 × 10−9; PCH = 6.57 × 10−8, PMA = 6.73 × 10−3); the strongest non-HLA signal occurred at STAT4 (PMeta = 1.67 × 10−7; PCH = 2.88 × 10−6, PMA = 2.99 × 10−3). Most of these genes were associated with B- and T-cell function and signaling pathways. Our exploratory study using high-density fine-mapping suggests that most of the established SLE genes are also associated in the major ethnicities of Malaysia. However, these novel SNPs showed stronger association in these Asian populations than with the SNPs reported in previous studies.
PMCID: PMC3948475
16.  SNPs in VKORC1 are Risk Factors for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Asians 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(1):211-215.
The increased risk of thrombosis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) may be partially explained by interrelated genetic pathways for thrombosis and SLE. In a case-control analysis, we investigated whether 33 established and novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in 20 genes involved in hemostasis pathways that have been associated with deep venous thrombosis in the general population were risk factors for SLE development among Asians.
Patients in the discovery cohort were enrolled in one of two North American SLE cohorts. Patients in the replication cohort were enrolled in one of four Asian or two North American cohorts. SLE cases met American College of Rheumatology classification criteria. We first genotyped 263 Asian SLE and 357 healthy Asian control individuals for 33 SNPs using Luminex multiplex technology in the discovery phase, and then used Taqman and Immunochip assays to examine 5 SNPs in up to an additional 1496 cases and 993 controls in the Replication phase. SLE patients were compared to healthy controls for association with minor alleles in allelic models. Principal components analysis was used to control for intra-Asian ancestry in an analysis of the replication cohort.
Two genetic variants in the gene VKORC1, rs9934438 and rs9923231, were highly significant in both the discovery and replication cohorts: OR(disc) = 2.45 (p=2×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6) and OR(disc) = 2.40 (p=6×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6), respectively. These associations were significant in the replication cohort after adjustment for intra-Asian ancestry: rs9934438 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0029) and rs9923231 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0032).
Genetic variants in VKORC1, involved in vitamin K reduction and associated with DVT, are associated with SLE development in Asians. These results suggest intersecting genetic pathways for the development of SLE and thrombosis.
PMCID: PMC3670944  PMID: 23124848
systemic lupus erythematosus; single nucleotide polymorphisms; genetic risk factors
17.  A Genome-Wide Association Study Identified AFF1 as a Susceptibility Locus for Systemic Lupus Eyrthematosus in Japanese 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002455.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that causes multiple organ damage. Although recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have contributed to discovery of SLE susceptibility genes, few studies has been performed in Asian populations. Here, we report a GWAS for SLE examining 891 SLE cases and 3,384 controls and multi-stage replication studies examining 1,387 SLE cases and 28,564 controls in Japanese subjects. Considering that expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) have been implicated in genetic risks for autoimmune diseases, we integrated an eQTL study into the results of the GWAS. We observed enrichments of cis-eQTL positive loci among the known SLE susceptibility loci (30.8%) compared to the genome-wide SNPs (6.9%). In addition, we identified a novel association of a variant in the AF4/FMR2 family, member 1 (AFF1) gene at 4q21 with SLE susceptibility (rs340630; P = 8.3×10−9, odds ratio = 1.21). The risk A allele of rs340630 demonstrated a cis-eQTL effect on the AFF1 transcript with enhanced expression levels (P<0.05). As AFF1 transcripts were prominently expressed in CD4+ and CD19+ peripheral blood lymphocytes, up-regulation of AFF1 may cause the abnormality in these lymphocytes, leading to disease onset.
Author Summary
Although recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) approaches have successfully contributed to disease gene discovery, many susceptibility loci are known to be still uncaptured due to strict significance threshold for multiple hypothesis testing. Therefore, prioritization of GWAS results by incorporating additional information is recommended. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that causes multiple organ damage. Considering that abnormalities in B cell activity play essential roles in SLE, prioritization based on an expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) study for B cells would be a promising approach. In this study, we report a GWAS and multi-stage replication studies for SLE examining 2,278 SLE cases and 31,948 controls in Japanese subjects. We integrated eQTL study into the results of the GWAS and identified AFF1 as a novel SLE susceptibility loci. We also confirmed cis-regulatory effect of the locus on the AFF1 transcript. Our study would be one of the initial successes for detecting novel genetic locus using the eQTL study, and it should contribute to our understanding of the genetic loci being uncaptured by standard GWAS approaches.
PMCID: PMC3266877  PMID: 22291604
18.  High density genotyping of STAT4 gene reveals multiple haplotypic associations with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in different racial groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1085-1095.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2776081  PMID: 19333953
19.  Polymorphisms of the ITGAM Gene Confer Higher Risk of Discoid Cutaneous Than of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14212.
Lupus erythematosus (LE) is a heterogeneous disease ranging from mainly skin-restricted manifestations (discoid LE [DLE] and subacute cutaneous LE) to a progressive multisystem disease (systemic LE [SLE]). Genetic association studies have recently identified several strong susceptibility genes for SLE, including integrin alpha M (ITGAM), also known as CD11b, whereas the genetic background of DLE is less clear.
Principal Findings
To specifically investigate whether ITGAM is a susceptibility gene not only for SLE, but also for cutaneous DLE, we genotyped 177 patients with DLE, 85 patients with sporadic SLE, 190 index cases from SLE families and 395 population control individuals from Finland for nine genetic markers at the ITGAM locus. SLE patients were further subdivided by the presence or absence of discoid rash and renal involvement. In addition, 235 Finnish and Swedish patients positive for Ro/SSA-autoantibodies were included in a subphenotype analysis. Analysis of the ITGAM coding variant rs1143679 showed highly significant association to DLE in patients without signs of systemic disease (P-value  = 4.73×10−11, OR  = 3.20, 95% CI  = 2.23–4.57). Significant association was also detected to SLE patients (P-value  = 8.29×10−6, OR  = 2.14, 95% CI  = 1.52–3.00), and even stronger association was found when stratifying SLE patients by presence of discoid rash (P-value  = 3.59×10−8, OR  = 3.76, 95% CI  = 2.29–6.18).
We propose ITGAM as a novel susceptibility gene for cutaneous DLE. The risk effect is independent of systemic involvement and has an even stronger genetic influence on the risk of DLE than of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2996302  PMID: 21151989
20.  Role of Cytokines in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Recent Progress from GWAS and Sequencing 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disorder, known to have a strong genetic component. Concordance between monozygotic twins is approximately 30–40%, which is 8–20 times higher than that of dizygotic twins. In the last decade, genome-wide approaches to understanding SLE have yielded many candidate genes, which are important to understanding the pathophysiology of the disease and potential targets for pharmaceutical intervention. In this paper, we focus on the role of cytokines and examine how genome-wide association studies, copy number variation studies, and next-generation sequencing are being employed to understand the etiology of SLE. Prominent genes identified by these approaches include BLK, FCγR3B, and TREX1. Our goal is to present a brief overview of genomic approaches to SLE and to introduce some of the key discussion points pertinent to the field.
PMCID: PMC3359833  PMID: 22654485
21.  Fine Mapping of Xq28: Both MECP2 and IRAK1 Contribute to Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Multiple Ancestral Groups 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(3):437-444.
The Xq28 region containing IRAK1 and MECP2 has been identified as a risk locus for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in previous genetic association studies. However, due to the strong linkage disequilibrium between IRAK1 and MECP2, it remains unclear which gene is affected by the underlying causal variant(s) conferring risk of SLE.
We fine-mapped ≥136 SNPs in a ~227kb region on Xq28, containing IRAK1, MECP2 and 7 adjacent genes (L1CAM, AVPR2, ARHGAP4, NAA10, RENBP, HCFC1 and TMEM187), for association with SLE in 15,783 case-control subjects derived from 4 different ancestral groups.
Multiple SNPs showed strong association with SLE in European Americans, Asians and Hispanics at P<5×10−8 with consistent association in subjects with African ancestry. Of these, 6 SNPs located in the TMEM187-IRAK1-MECP2 region captured the underlying causal variant(s) residing in a common risk haplotype shared by all 4 ancestral groups. Among them, rs1059702 best explained the Xq28 association signals in conditional testings and exhibited the strongest P value in trans-ancestral meta-analysis (Pmeta=1.3×10−27, OR=1.43), and thus was considered to be the most-likely causal variant. The risk allele of rs1059702 results in the amino acid substitution S196F in IRAK1 and had previously been shown to increase NF-κB activity in vitro. We also found that the homozygous risk genotype of rs1059702 was associated with lower mRNA levels of MECP2, but not IRAK1, in SLE patients (P=0.0012) and healthy controls (P=0.0064).
These data suggest contributions of both IRAK1 and MECP2 to SLE susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3567234  PMID: 22904263
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Polymorphism; Xq28; IRAK1; MECP2
22.  Prolidase deficiency associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): single site experience and literature review 
Prolidase deficiency (PD) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder which may have a wide spectrum of clinical features. These features include a characteristic facies, cognitive impairment, rashes or skin ulceration, splenomegaly, recurrent infections involving mainly the respiratory system, and iminodipeptiduria. The disorder is caused by a mutation in the PEPD gene.
To describe a cohort of unrelated PD patients from Northern Israel whose inborn error of metabolism was associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to identify in the medical literature all PD cases mimicked by and/or associated with SLE.
Three patients with PD associated with SLE were clinically, biochemically and genetically investigated. These patients were from 3 unrelated consanguineous families residing in Northern Israel. A computer-assisted (PubMed) search of the medical literature from 1975 to 2011 was performed using the following key words: Prolidase deficiency, SLE, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
An association between PD and SLE was found in 10 PD patients. These 10 patients included three from our cohort of 23 PD patients, and seven out of just under 70 PD patients previously reported in the literature.
The present findings underscore the relatively high incidence of the association between SLE and PD, suggesting that this association may not be coincidental. The phenotypic similarities between SLE and PD might suggest that the PEPD gene constitutes a modifier gene or a genetic risk factor in the causation of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3623899  PMID: 22726576
23.  Mutations in genes encoding complement inhibitors CD46 and CFH affect the age at nephritis onset in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R206.
Inherited deficiencies of several complement components strongly predispose to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) while deficiencies of complement inhibitors are found in kidney diseases such as atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS).
The exons of complement inhibitor genes CD46 and CFH (factor H) were fully sequenced using the Sanger method in SLE patients with nephritis originating from two cohorts from southern and mid Sweden (n = 196). All identified mutations and polymorphisms were then analyzed in SLE patients without nephritis (n = 326) and in healthy controls (n = 523).
We found nonsynonymous, heterozygous mutations in CFH in 6.1% patients with nephritis, in comparison with 4.0% and 5.4% in patients without nephritis and controls, respectively. No associations of SLE or nephritis with common variants in CFH (V62I/Y402H/E936D) were found. Furthermore, we found two nonsynonymous heterozygous mutations in CD46 in SLE patients but not in controls. The A353V polymorphism, known to affect function of CD46, was found in 6.6% of nephritis patients versus 4.9% and 6.1% of the non-nephritis SLE patients and controls. The presence of mutations in CD46 and CFH did not predispose to SLE or nephritis but was associated with earlier onset of nephritis. Furthermore, we found weak indications that there is one protective and one risk haplotype predisposing to nephritis composed of several polymorphisms in noncoding regions of CD46, which were previously implicated in aHUS.
SLE nephritis is not associated with frequent mutations in CFH and CD46 as found in aHUS but these may be modifying factors causing earlier onset of nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3334659  PMID: 22171659
24.  Male only Systemic Lupus 
The Journal of rheumatology  2010;37(7):1480-1487.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is more common among women than men with a ratio of about 10 to 1. We undertook this study to describe familial male SLE within a large cohort of familial SLE. SLE families (two or more patients) were obtained from the Lupus Multiplex Registry and Repository. Genomic DNA and blood samples were obtained using standard methods. Autoantibodies were determined by multiple methods. Medical records were abstracted for SLE clinical data. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was performed with X and Y centromere specific probes, and a probe specific for the toll-like receptor 7 gene on the X chromosome. Among 523 SLE families, we found five families in which all the SLE patients were male. FISH found no yaa gene equivalent in these families. SLE-unaffected primary female relatives from the five families with only-male SLE patients had a statistically increased rate of positive ANA compared to SLE-unaffected female relatives in other families. White men with SLE were 5 times more likely to have an offspring with SLE than were White women with SLE but there was no difference in this likelihood among Black men. These data suggest genetic susceptibility factors that act only in men.
PMCID: PMC2978923  PMID: 20472921
Systemic lupus erythematosus; men; autoantibodies; genetics
25.  Cardiovascular Disease and Cognitive Dysfunction in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis care & research  2012;64(9):1328-1333.
Cognitive dysfunction and cardiovascular disease are common and debilitating manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In this study, we evaluated the relationship between cardiovascular events, traditional cardiovascular risk factors, and SLE-specific risk factors as predictors of cognitive dysfunction in a large cohort of participants with SLE.
Subjects included 694 participants from the Lupus Outcomes Study (LOS), a longitudinal study of SLE outcomes based on annual telephone survey querying demographic and clinical variables. The Hopkins Verbal Learning Test – Revised (HVLT-R) and the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT) were administered to assess cognitive function. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction (MI), stroke), traditional cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, smoking), and SLE-specific risk factors (antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL), disease activity, disease duration) associated with cognitive impairment in year seven of the LOS.
The prevalence of cognitive impairment as measured by verbal memory and verbal fluency metrics was 15%. In adjusted multiple logistic regression analyses, aPL (OR=2.10, 95% CI 1.3-3.41), hypertension (OR=2.06, 95% CI 1.19-3.56), and a history of stroke (OR=2.27, 95% CI 1.16-4.43) were significantly associated with cognitive dysfunction. In additional analyses evaluating the association between these predictors and severity of cognitive impairment, stroke was significantly more prevalent in participants with severe impairment when compared to those with mild or moderate impairment (p=0.036).
These results suggest that the presence of aPL, hypertension, and stroke are key variables associated with cognitive impairment, which may aid in identification of patients at greatest risk.
PMCID: PMC3705733  PMID: 22549897

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