In many European countries, restrictions exist around the prescription of anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Eligibility and response to treatment is assessed by using the disease activity score 28 (DAS28) algorithm, which incorporates one of two inflammatory markers, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP). Although DAS28-CRP provides a more reliable measure of disease activity, functional variants exist within the CRP gene that affect basal CRP production.
Therefore, we aimed to determine the relation between functional genetic variants at the CRP gene locus and levels of serum CRP in RA patients, and whether these variants, alone or in combination, are correlated with DAS28-CRP and change in DAS28-CRP after anti-TNF treatment.
DNA samples from the Biologics in Rheumatoid Arthritis Genetics and Genomics Study Syndicate (BRAGGSS) were genotyped for rs1205, rs1800947, and rs3091244 by using either TaqMan or the Sequenom MassARRAY iPLEX system.
Estimated haplotypes were constructed for each sample by using the expectation maximization algorithm implemented in the haplo.stats package within the R statistical program.
CRP values were log transformed, and the association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), haplotypes of SNPs and baseline CRP, baseline DAS28-CRP, and change in DAS28-CRP were evaluated by using linear regression in STATA v.10.
Baseline CRP measurements were available for 599 samples with 442 also having data 6 months after treatment with an anti-TNF. For these 442 samples, the study had > 80% power to detect a clinically meaningful difference of 0.6 DAS28 Units for an allele frequency of 5%. Estimated haplotype frequencies corresponded with previous frequencies reported in the literature. Overall, no significant association was observed between any of the markers investigated and baseline CRP levels. Further, CRP haplotypes did not correlate with baseline CRP (P = 0.593), baseline DAS28-CRP (P = 0.540), or change in DAS28-CRP after treatment with an anti-TNF over a 6-month period (P = 0.302).
Although CRP genotype may influence baseline CRP levels, in patients with very active disease, no such association was found. This suggests that genetic variation at the CRP locus does not influence DAS28-CRP, which may continue to be used in determining eligibility for and response to anti-TNF treatment, without adjusting for CRP genotype.