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1.  Recent insights into the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):373-379.
Genetic variation was first shown to be part of the cause of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) in the 1970s with associations in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region. Almost four decades later, and with the help of increasingly powerful genetic approaches, more than 25 genes are now known to contribute to the mechanisms that predispose individuals to lupus. Over half of these loci have been discovered in the past two years, underscoring the extraordinary success of recent genome-wide association approaches in SLE. The now well established genetic risk factors include alleles in the MHC region (multiple genes), IRF5, ITGAM, STAT4, BLK, BANK1, PDCD1, PTPN22, TNFSF4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, ATG5, XKR6, PXK, some of the Fcγ receptors, and deficiencies in several complement components, including C1q, C4, and C2. As reviewed here, many of these genes fall into key pathways that are consistent with previous studies implicating immune complexes, host immune signal transduction, and interferon pathways in the pathogenesis of SLE. Other genetic loci have no known function or apparent immunological role and have the potential to reveal novel disease mechanisms. Certainly, as our understanding of the genetic etiology of SLE continues to mature, important new opportunities will emerge for developing more targeted and effective diagnostic and clinical management tools for this complex autoimmune disease.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.39
PMCID: PMC3144759  PMID: 19440199
2.  A Comprehensive Analysis of Shared Loci between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Sixteen Autoimmune Diseases Reveals Limited Genetic Overlap 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002406.
In spite of the well-known clustering of multiple autoimmune disorders in families, analyses of specific shared genes and polymorphisms between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) have been limited. Therefore, we comprehensively tested autoimmune variants for association with SLE, aiming to identify pleiotropic genetic associations between these diseases. We compiled a list of 446 non–Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of populations of European ancestry across 17 ADs. We then tested these variants in our combined Caucasian SLE cohorts of 1,500 cases and 5,706 controls. We tested a subset of these polymorphisms in an independent Caucasian replication cohort of 2,085 SLE cases and 2,854 controls, allowing the computation of a meta-analysis between all cohorts. We have uncovered novel shared SLE loci that passed multiple comparisons adjustment, including the VTCN1 (rs12046117, P = 2.02×10−06) region. We observed that the loci shared among the most ADs include IL23R, OLIG3/TNFAIP3, and IL2RA. Given the lack of a universal autoimmune risk locus outside of the MHC and variable specificities for different diseases, our data suggests partial pleiotropy among ADs. Hierarchical clustering of ADs suggested that the most genetically related ADs appear to be type 1 diabetes with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis. These findings support a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. For many of the shared GWAS autoimmune loci, we found no evidence for association with SLE, including IL23R. Also, several established SLE loci are apparently not associated with other ADs, including the ITGAM-ITGAX and TNFSF4 regions. This study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune loci to date, supports a relatively distinct non–MHC genetic susceptibility for SLE, provides further evidence for previously and newly identified shared genes in SLE, and highlights the value of studies of potentially pleiotropic genes in autoimmune diseases.
Author Summary
It is well known that multiple autoimmune disorders cluster in families. However, all of the genetic variants that explain this clustering have not been discovered, and the specific genetic variants shared between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) are not known. In order to better understand the genetic factors that explain this predisposition to autoimmunity, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune genetic variants. First we considered results from 17 ADs and compiled a list with 446 significant genetic variants from these studies. We identified some genetic variants extensively shared between ADs, as well as the ADs that share the most variants. The genetic overlap between SLE and other ADs was modest. Next we tested how important all the 446 genetic variants were in our collection with a minimum of 1,500 SLE patients. Among the most significant variants in SLE, the majority had already been identified in previous studies, but we also discovered variants in two important immune genes. In summary, our data identified diseases with common genetic risk factors and novel SLE effects, and this supports a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. This study helps delineate the genetic architecture of ADs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002406
PMCID: PMC3234215  PMID: 22174698
3.  Differential Genetic Associations for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Based on Anti–dsDNA Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001323.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, systemic autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody formation. Previously published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have investigated SLE as a single phenotype. Therefore, we conducted a GWAS to identify genetic factors associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production, a SLE–related autoantibody with diagnostic and clinical importance. Using two independent datasets, over 400,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied in a total of 1,717 SLE cases and 4,813 healthy controls. Anti–dsDNA autoantibody positive (anti–dsDNA +, n = 811) and anti–dsDNA autoantibody negative (anti–dsDNA –, n = 906) SLE cases were compared to healthy controls and to each other to identify SNPs associated specifically with these SLE subtypes. SNPs in the previously identified SLE susceptibility loci STAT4, IRF5, ITGAM, and the major histocompatibility complex were strongly associated with anti–dsDNA + SLE. Far fewer and weaker associations were observed for anti–dsDNA – SLE. For example, rs7574865 in STAT4 had an OR for anti–dsDNA + SLE of 1.77 (95% CI 1.57–1.99, p = 2.0E-20) compared to an OR for anti–dsDNA – SLE of 1.26 (95% CI 1.12–1.41, p = 2.4E-04), with pheterogeneity<0.0005. SNPs in the SLE susceptibility loci BANK1, KIAA1542, and UBE2L3 showed evidence of association with anti–dsDNA + SLE and were not associated with anti–dsDNA – SLE. In conclusion, we identified differential genetic associations with SLE based on anti–dsDNA autoantibody production. Many previously identified SLE susceptibility loci may confer disease risk through their role in autoantibody production and be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity loci. Lack of strong SNP associations may suggest that other types of genetic variation or non-genetic factors such as environmental exposures have a greater impact on susceptibility to anti–dsDNA – SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can involve virtually any organ system. SLE patients produce antibodies that bind to their own cells and proteins (autoantibodies) which can cause irreversible organ damage. One particular SLE–related autoantibody directed at double-stranded DNA (anti–dsDNA) is associated with kidney involvement and more severe disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have studied SLE itself, not particular SLE manifestations. Therefore, we conducted this GWAS of anti–dsDNA autoantibody production to identify genetic associations with this clinically important autoantibody. We found that many previously identified SLE–associated genes are more strongly associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production than SLE itself, and they may be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity genes. No strong genetic associations were observed for SLE patients who do not produce anti–dsDNA autoantibodies, suggesting that other factors may have more influence in developing this type of SLE. Further investigation of these autoantibody propensity genes may lead to greater insight into the causes of autoantibody production and organ damage in SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001323
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
4.  Genome-Wide Association Study in Asian Populations Identifies Variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000841.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a complex and potentially fatal autoimmune disease, characterized by autoantibody production and multi-organ damage. By a genome-wide association study (320 patients and 1,500 controls) and subsequent replication altogether involving a total of 3,300 Asian SLE patients from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Thailand, as well as 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls, genetic variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 were found to be associated with SLE (ETS1: rs1128334, P = 2.33×10−11, OR = 1.29; WDFY4: rs7097397, P = 8.15×10−12, OR = 1.30). ETS1 encodes for a transcription factor known to be involved in a wide range of immune functions, including Th17 cell development and terminal differentiation of B lymphocytes. SNP rs1128334 is located in the 3′-UTR of ETS1, and allelic expression analysis from peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed significantly lower expression level from the risk allele. WDFY4 is a conserved protein with unknown function, but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and rs7097397 in WDFY4 changes an arginine residue to glutamine (R1816Q) in this protein. Our study also confirmed association of the HLA locus, STAT4, TNFSF4, BLK, BANK1, IRF5, and TNFAIP3 with SLE in Asians. These new genetic findings may help us to gain a better understanding of the disease and the functions of the genes involved.
Author Summary
In this study, we first conducted a genome-wide association study in a Hong Kong Chinese population, followed by replication in three other cohorts from Mainland China and a cohort from Thailand, which totaled 3,300 Asian patients and 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls. We identified novel variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 associated with SLE with genome-wide significance and confirmed the association of HLA locus, STAT4, BLK, IRF5, BANK1, TNFSF, and IRF5 with the disease. ETS1 encodes a critical transcription factor involved in Th17 and B cell development. Allelic expression study showed a significantly lower expression of ETS1 from the risk allele, which provided functional support to the genetic findings. WDFY4 is a huge protein with unknown function but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and a nonsynonymous SNP in this gene was found to be highly associated with SLE susceptibility. Our findings shed new light on the function of these genes as well as the mechanism of this devastating disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000841
PMCID: PMC2820522  PMID: 20169177
5.  Gene–Gene Interaction of BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(1):222-231.
Objective
Although the number of convincingly established genetic associations with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has increased sharply over the last few years, refinement of these associations is required, and their potential roles in gene–gene interactions need to be further investigated. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have produced renewed interest in B cell/T cell responses and the NF-κB signaling pathway. The aim of this study was to search for possible gene–gene interactions based on identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in using an approach based on the role of signaling pathways.
Methods
The SNPs in BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL were replicated in order to evaluate genetic associations with SLE. TaqMan genotyping was conducted in 804 Chinese patients with SLE and 722 matched control subjects. A multiple logistic regression model was used to estimate the multiplicative interaction effect of the SNPs, and additive interactions were analyzed by 2 × 2 factorial designs. Data from a previously published GWAS conducted by the International Consortium on the Genetics of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus were derived for comparison and validation.
Results
Single-marker analysis validated the association of BLK rs2736340 (P = 4.25 × 10–6) as well as TNFSF4 rs2205960 (P = 2.82 × 10–5) and TNFAIP3 rs5029939 (P = 1.92 × 10–3) with SLE susceptibility in Chinese. Multiplicative interaction analysis indicated that BLK had an interactive effect with TNFSF4 in Chinese patients with SLE (P = 6.57 × 10–4). Additive interaction analysis revealed interactions between TRAF1 and TNFAIP3 in both Chinese (P = 2.18 × 10–3) and Caucasians (P = 2.86 × 10–4). In addition, multiple tendencies toward interactions were observed, and an additive effect was observed as the number of risk genotypes increased.
Conclusion
The results of this study provide evidence of the possible gene–gene interactions of BLK, TNFSF4, TRAF1, TNFAIP3, and REL in SLE, which may represent a synergic effect of T cells and B cells through the NF-κB pathway in determining immunologic aberration.
doi:10.1002/art.33318
PMCID: PMC3994469  PMID: 21905002
6.  Genes Associated with SLE Are Targets of Recent Positive Selection 
Autoimmune Diseases  2014;2014:203435.
The reasons for the ethnic disparities in the prevalence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the relative high frequency of SLE risk alleles in the population are not fully understood. Population genetic factors such as natural selection alter allele frequencies over generations and may help explain the persistence of such common risk variants in the population and the differential risk of SLE. In order to better understand the genetic basis of SLE that might be due to natural selection, a total of 74 genomic regions with compelling evidence for association with SLE were tested for evidence of recent positive selection in the HapMap and HGDP populations, using population differentiation, allele frequency, and haplotype-based tests. Consistent signs of positive selection across different studies and statistical methods were observed at several SLE-associated loci, including PTPN22, TNFSF4, TET3-DGUOK, TNIP1, UHRF1BP1, BLK, and ITGAM genes. This study is the first to evaluate and report that several SLE-associated regions show signs of positive natural selection. These results provide corroborating evidence in support of recent positive selection as one mechanism underlying the elevated population frequency of SLE risk loci and supports future research that integrates signals of natural selection to help identify functional SLE risk alleles.
doi:10.1155/2014/203435
PMCID: PMC3920976  PMID: 24587899
7.  Study of the common genetic background for rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;70(3):463-468.
Background
Evidence is beginning to emerge that there may be susceptibility loci for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that are common to both diseases.
Objective
To investigate single nucleotide polymorphisms that have been reported to be associated with SLE in a UK cohort of patients with RA and controls.
Methods
3962 patients with RA and 9275 controls were included in the study. Eleven SNPs mapping to confirmed SLE loci were investigated. These mapped to the TNFSF4, BANK1, TNIP1, PTTG1, UHRF1BP1, ATG5, JAZF1, BLK, KIAA1542, ITGAM and UBE2L3 loci. Genotype frequencies were compared between patients with RA and controls using the trend test.
Results
The SNPs mapping to the BLK and UBE2L3 loci showed significant evidence for association with RA. Two other SNPs, mapping to ATG5 and KIAA1542, showed nominal evidence for association with RA (p=0.02 and p=0.02, respectively) but these were not significant after applying a Bonferroni correction. Additionally, a significant global enrichment in carriage of SLE alleles in patients with RA compared with controls (p=9.1×10−7) was found. Meta-analysis of this and previous studies confirmed the association of the BLK and UBE2L3 gene with RA at genome-wide significance levels (p<5×10−8). Together, the authors estimate that the SLE and RA overlapping loci, excluding HLA-DRB1 alleles, identified so far explain ∼5.8% of the genetic susceptibility to RA as a whole.
Conclusion
The findings confirm the association of the BLK and UBE2L3 loci with RA, thus adding to the list of loci showing overlap between RA and SLE.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.137174
PMCID: PMC3033530  PMID: 21068098
8.  Interferon Regulatory Factors in Human Lupus Pathogenesis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a severe multi-system autoimmune disease which results from both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many lines of investigation support interferon alpha (IFN-α) as a causal agent in human lupus, and high levels of serum IFN-α are a heritable risk factor for SLE. Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a family of transcription factors involved in host defense, which can induce transcription of IFN-α and other immune response genes following activation. In SLE, circulating immune complexes which contain nucleic acid are prevalent. These complexes are recognized by endosomal Toll-like receptors, resulting in activation of downstream IRF proteins. Genetic variants in the IRF5 and IRF7 genes have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and these same variants are associated with increased serum IFN-α in SLE patients. The increase in serum IFN-α related to IRF5 and 7 genotypes is observed only in patients with particular antibody specificities. This suggests that chronic stimulation of the endosomal Toll-like receptors by autoantibody immune complexes is required for IRF SLE-risk variants to cause elevation of circulating IFN-α and subsequent risk of SLE. Recently, genetic variation in the IRF8 gene has been associated with SLE and multiple sclerosis, and studies support an impact of IRF8 genotype on the IFN-α pathway. In summary, the SLE-associated polymorphisms in the IRF family of proteins appear to be gain-of-function variants, and understanding the impact of these variants upon the IFN-α pathway in vivo may guide therapeutic strategies directed at the Toll-like receptor/IRF/IFN-α pathway in SLE.
doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2011.01.006
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
9.  Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e491.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a serious systemic autoimmune disorder that affects multiple organ systems and is characterized by unpredictable flares of disease. Recent evidence indicates a role for type I interferon (IFN) in SLE pathogenesis; however, the downstream effects of IFN pathway activation are not well understood. Here we test the hypothesis that type I IFN-regulated proteins are present in the serum of SLE patients and correlate with disease activity.
Methods and Findings
We performed a comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE and identified dysregulated levels of 30 cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and soluble receptors. Particularly striking was the highly coordinated up-regulation of 12 inflammatory and/or homeostatic chemokines, molecules that direct the movement of leukocytes in the body. Most of the identified chemokines were inducible by type I IFN, and their levels correlated strongly with clinical and laboratory measures of disease activity.
Conclusions
These data suggest that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed in human SLE. Furthermore, the levels of serum chemokines may serve as convenient biomarkers for disease activity in lupus.
A comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE suggests that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The term “lupus,” meaning wolf in Latin, is often used as an abbreviation for the disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The name may have been given because some people with SLE have a rash that slightly resembles a wolf's face. The condition affects around 50 to 100 people per 100,000, and is much more common in women than men. SLE is a complicated disease that comes about when antibodies inappropriately attack the body's own connective tissues, although it is not known why this happens. Symptoms vary between different people; the disease may get better and then worse, without explanation; and can affect many different organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, and brain and nervous system. SLE is difficult for doctors to diagnose. Although the disease cannot be cured, patients who are diagnosed with SLE can be treated for their symptoms, and the right management can slow progress of the disease. One area of SLE research focuses on finding “molecular markers” (e.g., proteins or other compounds) that could be tested for in the blood. Researchers hope this would help doctors to more accurately diagnose SLE initially, and then also help to track progress in a patient's condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Gene expression” is a term meaning the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into the structures and functions of a cell. These investigators had found in previous studies that certain genes were more “highly expressed” in the blood cells of patients with SLE. Some of these genes were already known to be regulated by interferons (a group of proteins, produced by certain blood cells, that are important in helping to defend against viral infections). The investigators performing this study wanted to understand more clearly the role of interferon in SLE and to see whether the genes that are more highly expressed in patients with SLE go on to produce higher levels of protein, which might then provide useful markers for monitoring the condition.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research project was a “case-control” study, in which the researchers compared the levels of certain proteins in the blood of people who had SLE with the levels in people who did not have the condition. Thirty people were recruited as cases, from a group of patients with SLE who have been under evaluation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine since 1987. Fifteen controls were recruited from a group of healthy people of similar age and sex as the patients with SLE; everyone involved in the study gave their consent to take part. Blood samples were taken from each individual, and the serum (liquid component of blood) was separated out. The serum levels of 160 different blood proteins were then measured. When comparing levels of blood proteins between the groups, the researchers found that 30 specific proteins were present at higher or lower levels in the SLE-affected patients. Many of these proteins are cytokines, which are regulated by interferons and are involved in the process of “signaling” within the immune system. A few proteins were found at lower levels. Levels of the interferon-regulated proteins were, on average, seen at higher levels in people whose condition was more severe.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that patients with SLE are likely to have a very different pattern of regulation of certain proteins within the blood, particularly the proteins involved in signaling within the immune system. The authors propose that these proteins may be involved in the progression of the disease. There is also the possibility that some of these proteins may prove useful in diagnostic tests, or in tests for monitoring how the disease progresses. However, before any such tests could be used in clinical practice, they would need to be further developed and then thoroughly tested in clinical trials.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
Patient information from the UK National Health Service on systemic lupus erythematosus
Patient handout from the US National Institutes of Health
MedlinePLUS encyclopedia entry on lupus
Information on lupus from the UK Arthritis Research Campaign
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
PMCID: PMC1702557  PMID: 17177599
10.  Analysis of Gender Differences in Genetic Risk: Association of TNFAIP3 Polymorphism with Male Childhood-Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in the Japanese Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72551.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic multisystem autoimmune disorder influenced by genetic background and environmental factors. Our aim here was to replicate findings of associations between 7 of the implicated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5, BLK, STAT4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes with susceptibility to childhood-onset SLE in the Japanese population. In particular, we focused on gender differences in allelic frequencies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The 7 SNPs were genotyped using TaqMan assays in 75 patients with childhood-onset SLE and in 190 healthy controls. The relationship between the cumulative number of risk alleles and SLE manifestations was explored in childhood-onset SLE. Logistic regression was used to test the effect of each polymorphism on susceptibility to SLE, and Wilcoxon rank sum testing was used for comparison of total risk alleles. Data on rs7574865 in the STAT4 gene and rs9138 in SPP1 were replicated for associations with SLE when comparing cases and controls (corrected P values ranging from 0.0043 to 0.027). The rs2230926 allele of TNFAIP3 was associated with susceptibility to SLE in males, but after Bonferroni correction there were no significant associations with any of the other four SNPs in IRF5, BLK, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes. The cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE relative to healthy controls (P = 0.0000041). Male SLE patients had a slightly but significantly higher frequency of the TNFAIP3 (rs2230926G) risk allele than female patients (odds ratio [OR] = 4.05, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] = 1.46–11.2 P<0.05).
Conclusions
Associations of polymorphisms in STAT4 and SPP1 with childhood-onset SLE were confirmed in a Japanese population. Although these are preliminary results for a limited number of cases, TNFAIP3 rs2230926G may be an important predictor of disease onset in males. We also replicated findings that the cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072551
PMCID: PMC3758304  PMID: 24023622
11.  Genetic and Physical Interaction of the B-Cell SLE-Associated Genes BANK1 and BLK 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(1):136-142.
Objectives
Altered signaling in B-cells is a predominant feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The genes BANK1 and BLK were recently described as associated with SLE. BANK1 codes for a B-cell-specific cytoplasmic protein involved in B-cell receptor signaling and BLK codes for an Src tyrosine kinase with important roles in B-cell development. To characterize the role of BANK1 and BLK in SLE, we performed a genetic interaction analysis hypothesizing that genetic interactions could reveal functional pathways relevant to disease pathogenesis.
Methods
We Used the method GPAT16 to analyze the gene-gene interactions of BANK1 and BLK. Confocal microscopy was used to investigate co-localization, and immunoprecipitation was used to verify the physical interaction of BANK1 and BLK.
Results
Epistatic interactions between BANK1 and BLK polymorphisms associated with SLE were observed in a discovery set of 279 patients and 515 controls from Northern Europe. A meta-analysis with 4399 European individuals confirmed the genetic interactions between BANK1 and BLK.
As BANK1 was identified as a binding partner of the Src tyrosine kinase LYN, we tested the possibility that BANK1 and BLK could also show a protein-protein interaction. We demonstrated co-immunoprecipitation and co-localization of BLK and BANK1. In a Daudi cell line and primary naïve B-cells the endogenous binding was enhanced upon B-cell receptor stimulation using anti-IgM antibodies.
Conclusions
Here, we show a genetic interaction between BANK1 and BLK, and demonstrate that these molecules interact physically. Our results have important consequences for the understanding of SLE and other autoimmune diseases and identify a potential new signaling pathway.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200085
PMCID: PMC3268679  PMID: 21978998
systemic lupus erythematosus; genetics; polymorphism; B-cells; autoantibodies
12.  Trans-Ancestral Studies Fine Map the SLE-Susceptibility Locus TNFSF4 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003554.
We previously established an 80 kb haplotype upstream of TNFSF4 as a susceptibility locus in the autoimmune disease SLE. SLE-associated alleles at this locus are associated with inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and ischaemic stroke. In Europeans, the TNFSF4 causal variants have remained elusive due to strong linkage disequilibrium exhibited by alleles spanning the region. Using a trans-ancestral approach to fine-map the locus, utilising 17,900 SLE and control subjects including Amerindian/Hispanics (1348 cases, 717 controls), African-Americans (AA) (1529, 2048) and better powered cohorts of Europeans and East Asians, we find strong association of risk alleles in all ethnicities; the AA association replicates in African-American Gullah (152,122). The best evidence of association comes from two adjacent markers: rs2205960-T (P = 1.71×10−34, OR = 1.43[1.26–1.60]) and rs1234317-T (P = 1.16×10−28, OR = 1.38[1.24–1.54]). Inference of fine-scale recombination rates for all populations tested finds the 80 kb risk and non-risk haplotypes in all except African-Americans. In this population the decay of recombination equates to an 11 kb risk haplotype, anchored in the 5′ region proximal to TNFSF4 and tagged by rs2205960-T after 1000 Genomes phase 1 (v3) imputation. Conditional regression analyses delineate the 5′ risk signal to rs2205960-T and the independent non-risk signal to rs1234314-C. Our case-only and SLE-control cohorts demonstrate robust association of rs2205960-T with autoantibody production. The rs2205960-T is predicted to form part of a decameric motif which binds NF-κBp65 with increased affinity compared to rs2205960-G. ChIP-seq data also indicate NF-κB interaction with the DNA sequence at this position in LCL cells. Our research suggests association of rs2205960-T with SLE across multiple groups and an independent non-risk signal at rs1234314-C. rs2205960-T is associated with autoantibody production and lymphopenia. Our data confirm a global signal at TNFSF4 and a role for the expressed product at multiple stages of lymphocyte dysregulation during SLE pathogenesis. We confirm the validity of trans-ancestral mapping in a complex trait.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex disease in which the body's immune cells cause inflammation in one or more systems to cause the associated morbidity. Hormones, the environment and genes are all causal contributors to SLE and over the past several years the genetic component of SLE has been firmly established. Several genes which are regulators of the immune system are associated with disease risk. We have established one of these, the tumour-necrosis family superfamily member 4 (TNFSF4) gene, as a lupus susceptibility gene in Northern Europeans. A major obstacle in pinpointing the marker(s) at TNFSF4 which best explain the risk of SLE has been the strong correlation (linkage disequilibrium, LD) between adjacent markers across the TNFSF4 region in this population. To address this, we have typed polymorphisms in several populations in addition to the European groups. The mixed ancestry of these populations gives a different LD pattern than that found in Europeans, presenting a method of pinpointing the section of the TNFSF4 region which results in SLE susceptibility. The Non-European populations have allowed identification of a polymorphism likely to regulate expression of TNFSF4 to increase susceptibility to SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003554
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
13.  Selective Involvement of the Amygdala in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e499.
Background
Antibodies specifically affect the amygdala in a mouse model of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The aim of our study was to investigate whether there is also specific involvement of the amygdala in human SLE.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed a group of 37 patients with neuropsychiatric SLE (NP-SLE), 21 patients with SLE, and a group of 12 healthy control participants with diffusion weighted imaging (DWI). In addition, in a subset of eight patients, plasma was available to determine their anti-NMDAR antibody status. From the structural magnetic resonance imaging data, the amygdala and the hippocampus were segmented, as well as the white and gray matter, and the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was retrieved. ADC values between controls, patients with SLE, and patients with NP-SLE were tested using analysis of variance with post-hoc Bonferroni correction. No differences were found in the gray or white matter segments. The average ADC in the amygdala of patients with NP-SLE and SLE (940 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.006 and 949 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.019, respectively) was lower than in healthy control participants (1152 × 10−6 mm2/s). Mann-Whitney analysis revealed that the average ADC in the amygdala of patients with anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 802 × 10−6 mm2/s) was lower (p = 0.029) than the average ADC of patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 979 × 10−6 mm2/s) and also lower (p = 0.001) than in healthy control participants.
Conclusions
This is the first study to our knowledge to observe damage in the amygdala in patients with SLE. Patients with SLE with anti-NMDAR antibodies had more severe damage in the amygdala compared to SLE patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies.
Patients with SLE who also had antibodies against the NMDA receptor had more severe damage in the amygdala as compared with patients with SLE without these antibodies.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The human body is continually attacked by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, but the immune system usually prevents these pathogens from causing disease. To be effective, the immune system has to respond rapidly to foreign antigens (bits of proteins that are unique to the pathogen) but ignore self-antigens. In autoimmune diseases, this ability to discriminate between self and nonself fails for unknown reasons, and the immune system begins to destroy human tissues. In the chronic autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), the immune system attacks the skin, joints, nervous system, and many other organs. Patients with SLE make numerous “autoantibodies” (antibodies are molecules made by the immune system that recognize and attack antigens; autoantibodies attack self-antigens). These autoantibodies start the attack on the body; then other parts of the immune system join in, causing inflammation and forming deposits of immune cells, both of which damage tissues. Common symptoms of SLE include skin rashes and arthritis, but some patients develop NP-SLE, a form of SLE that includes neuropsychiatric symptoms such as amnesia, dementia, mood disorders, strokes, and seizures. There is no cure for SLE, but mild cases are controlled with ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; severe cases are kept in check with corticosteroids and other powerful immunosuppressants.
Why Was This Study Done?
In most of the tissues affected by SLE, the damage done by autoantibodies and immune cells can be seen when the tissues are examined with a microscope. But there is little microscopic damage visible in the brains of patients with NP-SLE. More generally, it is unclear how or even whether the immune system affects mental functions and emotion. In this study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate whether there are any structural changes in the brains of patients with NP-SLE that could explain their neuropsychiatric symptoms. They have also examined whether any changes in the brain can be linked to the presence of autoantibodies that recognize a protein called the NMDA receptor (anti-NMDAR antibodies) that is present on brain cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used an MRI technique called diffusion weighted imaging to examine the brains of several patients with NP-SLE or SLE and the brains of several healthy individuals. Using this technique, it is possible to quantify the amount of structural damage in different regions of the brain. The researchers found no differences in most areas of the brain between the two groups of patients and the healthy controls. However, there were clear signs of damage in the amygdala (the part of the brain that regulates emotions and triggers responses to danger) in the patients with SLE or NP-SLE when compared to the control individuals. The researchers also found that the damage was more severe in the patients who had anti-NMDAR autoantibodies than in those that did not have these autoantibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that autoantibodies produced by patients with SLE specifically damage the amygdala, a discovery that helps to explain some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of this condition. Previous work has shown that the treatment of mice with anti-NMDAR antibodies and epinephrine, a stress hormone that causes leaks in the blood-brain barrier (antibodies can't usually get into the brain because of this barrier), results in damage to the amygdala and a deficient response to dangerous stimuli. The researchers suggest that a similar series of events might happen in SLE—patients often mention that a period of major stress precedes the development of symptoms. To provide stronger evidence for such a scenario, a detailed study of how stress relates to neuropsychiatric symptoms is needed. The damage to the amygdala (and the lack of damage elsewhere in the brain) and the possible association between brain damage and anti-NMDAR antibodies seen in this small study also need to be confirmed in more patients. Nevertheless, these findings provide an intriguing glimpse into the interplay between the immune system and the brain and into how stress might lead to physical damage in the brain.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030499.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia pages on autoimmunity and on systemic lupus erythematosus
US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases booklet for patients with SLE
American College of Rheumatology information for patients on SLE
NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopedia pages on SLE
The Lupus Foundation of America information and support for patients with SLE
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030499
PMCID: PMC1702559  PMID: 17177602
14.  Replicated associations of TNFAIP3, TNIP1 and ETS1 with systemic lupus erythematosus in a southwestern Chinese population 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R186.
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/ar3514
PMCID: PMC3334635  PMID: 22087647
15.  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Old and New Susceptibility Genes versus Clinical Manifestations 
Current Genomics  2014;15(1):52-65.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is one of the most relevant world-wide autoimmune disorders. The formation of autoantibodies and the deposition of antibody-containing immune complexes in blood vessels throughout the body is the main pathogenic mechanism of SLE leading to heterogeneous clinical manifestations and target tissue damage. The complexity of etiology and pathogenesis in SLE, enclosing genetic and environmental factors, apparently is one of the greatest challenges for both researchers and clinicians. Strong indications for a genetic background in SLE come from studies in families as well as in monozygotic and dizygotic twins, discovering several SLE-associated loci and genes (e.g. IRF5, PTPN22, CTLA4, STAT4 and BANK1). As SLE has a complex genetic background, none of these genes is likely to be entirely responsible for triggering autoimmune response in SLE even if they disclosure a potentially novel molecular mechanisms in the pathogenesis' disease. The clinical manifestations and disease severity varies greatly among patients, thus several studies try to associate clinical heterogeneity and prognosis with specific genetic polymorphisms in SLE associated genes. The continue effort to describe new predisposing or modulating genes in SLE is justified by the limited knowledge about the pathogenesis, assorted clinical manifestation and the possible prevention strategies. In this review we describe newly discovered, as well as the most studied genes associated to SLE susceptibility, and relate them to clinical manifestations of the disease.
doi:10.2174/138920291501140306113715
PMCID: PMC3958959  PMID: 24653663
Autoimmunity; B cells; Clinical manifestations; DSBs; IFN; SLE; SNPs; T cells.
16.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
Objective
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
Methods
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
Results
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
Conclusions
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200463
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
17.  Association of NCF2, IKZF1, IRF8, IFIH1, and TYK2 with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002341.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex trait characterised by the production of a range of auto-antibodies and a diverse set of clinical phenotypes. Currently, ∼8% of the genetic contribution to SLE in Europeans is known, following publication of several moderate-sized genome-wide (GW) association studies, which identified loci with a strong effect (OR>1.3). In order to identify additional genes contributing to SLE susceptibility, we conducted a replication study in a UK dataset (870 cases, 5,551 controls) of 23 variants that showed moderate-risk for lupus in previous studies. Association analysis in the UK dataset and subsequent meta-analysis with the published data identified five SLE susceptibility genes reaching genome-wide levels of significance (Pcomb<5×10−8): NCF2 (Pcomb = 2.87×10−11), IKZF1 (Pcomb = 2.33×10−9), IRF8 (Pcomb = 1.24×10−8), IFIH1 (Pcomb = 1.63×10−8), and TYK2 (Pcomb = 3.88×10−8). Each of the five new loci identified here can be mapped into interferon signalling pathways, which are known to play a key role in the pathogenesis of SLE. These results increase the number of established susceptibility genes for lupus to ∼30 and validate the importance of using large datasets to confirm associations of loci which moderately increase the risk for disease.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have revolutionised our ability to identify common susceptibility alleles for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In complex diseases such as SLE, where many different genes make a modest contribution to disease susceptibility, it is necessary to perform large-scale association studies to combine results from several datasets, to have sufficient power to identify highly significant novel loci (P<5×10−8). Using a large SLE collection of 870 UK SLE cases and 5,551 UK unaffected individuals, we firstly replicated ten moderate-risk alleles (P<0.05) from a US–Swedish study of 3,273 SLE cases and 12,188 healthy controls. Combining our results with the US-Swedish data identified five new loci, which crossed the level for genome-wide significance: NCF2 (neutrophil cytosolic factor 2), IKZF1 (Ikaros family zinc-finger 1), IRF8 (interferon regulatory factor 8), IFIH1 (interferon-induced helicase C domain-containing protein 1), and TYK2 (tyrosine kinase 2). Each of these five genes regulates a different aspect of the immune response and contributes to the production of type-I and type-II interferons. Although further studies will be required to identify the causal alleles within these loci, the confirmation of five new susceptibility genes for lupus makes a significant step forward in our understanding of the genetic contribution to SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002341
PMCID: PMC3203198  PMID: 22046141
18.  Risk Alleles for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in a Large Case-Control Collection and Associations with Clinical Subphenotypes 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001311.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. Recent studies have greatly expanded the number of established SLE risk alleles, but the distribution of multiple risk alleles in cases versus controls and their relationship to subphenotypes have not been studied. We studied 22 SLE susceptibility polymorphisms with previous genome-wide evidence of association (p<5×10−8) in 1919 SLE cases from 9 independent Caucasian SLE case series and 4813 independent controls. The mean number of risk alleles in cases was 15.1 (SD 3.1) while the mean in controls was 13.1 (SD 2.8), with trend p = 4×10−128. We defined a genetic risk score (GRS) for SLE as the number of risk alleles with each weighted by the SLE risk odds ratio (OR). The OR for high-low GRS tertiles, adjusted for intra-European ancestry, sex, and parent study, was 4.4 (95% CI 3.8–5.1). We studied associations of individual SNPs and the GRS with clinical manifestations for the cases: age at diagnosis, the 11 American College of Rheumatology classification criteria, and double-stranded DNA antibody (anti-dsDNA) production. Six subphenotypes were significantly associated with the GRS, most notably anti-dsDNA (ORhigh-low = 2.36, p = 9e−9), the immunologic criterion (ORhigh-low = 2.23, p = 3e−7), and age at diagnosis (ORhigh-low = 1.45, p = 0.0060). Finally, we developed a subphenotype-specific GRS (sub-GRS) for each phenotype with more power to detect cumulative genetic associations. The sub-GRS was more strongly associated than any single SNP effect for 5 subphenotypes (the above plus hematologic disorder and oral ulcers), while single loci are more significantly associated with renal disease (HLA-DRB1, OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.14–1.64) and arthritis (ITGAM, OR = 0.72, 95% CI 0.59–0.88). We did not observe significant associations for other subphenotypes, for individual loci or the sub-GRS. Thus our analysis categorizes SLE subphenotypes into three groups: those having cumulative, single, and no known genetic association with respect to the currently established SLE risk loci.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic disabling autoimmune disease, most commonly striking women in their thirties or forties. It can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including kidney disease, arthritis, and skin disorders. Prognosis varies greatly depending on these clinical features, with kidney disease and related characteristics leading to greater morbidity and mortality. It is also complex genetically; while lupus runs in families, genes increase one's risk for lupus but do not fully determine the outcome. The interactions of multiple genes and/or interactions between genes and environmental factors may cause lupus, but the causes and disease pathways of this very heterogeneous disease are not well understood. By examining relationships between the presence of multiple lupus risk genes, lupus susceptibility, and clinical manifestations, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that certain clinical manifestations of lupus are highly associated with cumulative genetic variations, i.e. multiple risk alleles, while others are associated with a single variation or none at all.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001311
PMCID: PMC3040652  PMID: 21379322
19.  European Genetic Ancestry is Associated with a Decreased Risk of Lupus Nephritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):10.1002/art.34567.
Objective
African Americans, East Asians, and Hispanics with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are more likely to develop renal disease than SLE patients of European descent. We investigated whether European genetic ancestry protects against the development of lupus nephritis and explored genetic and socioeconomic factors that might explain this effect.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional study of 1906 adults with SLE. Participants were genotyped for 126 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) informative for ancestry. A subset of participants was also genotyped for 80 SNPs in 14 candidate genes for renal disease in SLE. We used logistic regression to test the association between European ancestry and renal disease. Analyses adjusted for continental ancestries, socioeconomic status, and candidate genes.
Results
Participants (n=1906) had on average 62.4% European, 15.8% African, 11.5% East Asian, 6.5% Amerindian, and 3.8% South Asian ancestry. Among participants, 34% (n=656) had renal disease. A 10% increase in European ancestry was associated with a 15% reduction in the odds of having renal disease after adjustment for disease duration and sex (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.82-0.87, p=1.9 × 10−30). Adjusting for other genetic ancestries, measures of socioeconomic status, or SNPs in genes most associated with renal disease (IRF5 (rs4728142), BLK (rs2736340), STAT4 (rs3024912), ITGAM (rs9937837) and HLA-DRB1*0301 and DRB1*1501, p<0.05) did not substantively alter this relationship.
Conclusion
European ancestry is protective against the development of renal disease in SLE, an effect independent of other genetic ancestries, common risk alleles, and socioeconomic status.
doi:10.1002/art.34567
PMCID: PMC3865923  PMID: 23023776
20.  Association of BANK1 and TNFSF4 with systemic lupus erythematosus in Hong Kong Chinese 
Genes and Immunity  2009;10(5):414-420.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disease with complex genetic inheritance. Recently, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BANK1 and TNFSF4 have been shown to be associated with SLE in Caucasian populations, but it is not known whether they are also involved in the disease in other ethnic groups. Recent data from our genome-wide association study (GWAS) for 314 SLE cases and 920 controls collected in Hong Kong identified SNPs in and around BANK1 and TNFSF4 to be associated with SLE risk. On the basis of the results of the reported studies and our GWAS, SNPs were selected for further genotyping in 949 SLE patients (overlapping with the 314 cases in our GWAS) and non-overlapping 1042 healthy controls. We confirmed the associations of BANK1 and TNFSF4 with SLE in Chinese (BANK1, rs3733197, odds ratio (OR)=0.84, P=0.021; BANK1, rs17266594, OR=0.61, P=4.67 × 10−9; TNFSF4, rs844648, OR=1.22, P=2.47 × 10−3; TNFSF4, rs2205960, OR=1.30, P=2.41 × 10−4). Another SNP located in intron 1 of BANK1, rs4522865, was separately replicated by Sequenom in 360 cases and 360 controls and was also confirmed to be associated with SLE (OR=0.725, P=2.93 × 10−3). Logistic regression analysis showed that rs3733197 (A383T in ankyrin domain) and rs17266594 (a branch point-site SNP) from BANK1 had independent contributions towards the disease association (P=0.037 and 6.63 × 10−8, respectively). In TNFSF4, rs2205960 was associated with SLE independently from the effect of rs844648 (P=6.26 × 10−3), but not vice versa (P=0.55). These findings suggest that multiple independent genetic variants may be present within the gene locus, which exert their effects on SLE pathogenesis through different mechanisms.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.16
PMCID: PMC2834352  PMID: 19357697
SLE; BANK1; TNFSF4; Chinese; genetic association
21.  The granulocyte colony stimulating factor pathway regulates autoantibody production in a murine induced model of systemic lupus erythematosus 
Introduction
An NZB-derived genetic locus (Sle2c2) that suppresses autoantibody production in a mouse model of induced systemic lupus erythematosus contains a polymorphism in the gene encoding the G-CSF receptor. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that the Sle2c2 suppression is associated with an impaired G-CSF receptor function that can be overcome by exogenous G-CSF.
Methods
Leukocytes from B6.Sle2c2 and B6 congenic mice, which carry a different allele of the G-CSF receptor, were compared for their responses to G-CSF. Autoantibody production was induced with the chronic graft-versus-host-disease (cGVHD) model by adoptive transfer of B6.bm12 splenocytes. Different treatment regimens varying the amount and frequency of G-CSF (Neulasta®) or carrier control were tested on cGVHD outcomes. Autoantibody production, immune cell activation, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production were compared between the two strains with the various treatments. In addition, the effect of G-CSF treatment was examined on the production autoantibodies in the B6.Sle1.Sle2.Sle3 (B6.TC) spontaneous model of lupus.
Results
B6.Sle2c2 and B6 leukocytes responded differently to G-CSF. G-CSF binding by B6.Sle2c2 leukocytes was reduced as compared to B6, which was associated with a reduced expansion in response to in vivo G-CSF treatment. G-CSF in vivo treatment also failed to mobilize bone-marrow B6.Sle2c2 neutrophils as it did for B6 neutrophils. In contrast, the expression of G-CSF responsive genes indicated a higher G-CSF receptor signaling in B6.Sle2c2 cells. G-CSF treatment restored the ability of B6.Sle2c2 mice to produce autoantibodies in a dose-dependent manner upon cGVHD induction, which correlated with restored CD4+ T cells activation, as well as dendritic cell and granulocyte expansion. Steady-state ROS production was higher in B6.Sle2c2 than in B6 mice. cGVHD induction resulted in a larger increase in ROS production in B6 than in B6.Sle2c2 mice, and this difference was eliminated with G-CSF treatment. Finally, a low dose G-CSF treatment accelerated the production of anti-dsDNA IgG in young B6.TC mice.
Conclusion
The different in vivo and in vitro responses of B6.Sle2c2 leukocytes are consistent with the mutation in the G-CSFR having functional consequences. The elimination of Sle2c2 suppression of autoantibody production by exogenous G-CSF indicates that Sle2c2 corresponds to a loss of function of G-CSF receptor. This result was corroborated by the increased anti-dsDNA IgG production in G-CSF-treated B6.TC mice, which also carry the Sle2c2 locus. Overall, these results suggest that the G-CSF pathway regulates the production of autoantibodies in murine models of lupus.
doi:10.1186/ar4208
PMCID: PMC3672747  PMID: 23566364
22.  A Functional Variant in MicroRNA-146a Promoter Modulates Its Expression and Confers Disease Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002128.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic predisposition, characterized by an upregulated type I interferon pathway. MicroRNAs are important regulators of immune homeostasis, and aberrant microRNA expression has been demonstrated in patients with autoimmune diseases. We recently identified miR-146a as a negative regulator of the interferon pathway and linked the abnormal activation of this pathway to the underexpression of miR-146a in SLE patients. To explore why the expression of miR-146a is reduced in SLE patients, we conducted short parallel sequencing of potentially regulatory regions of miR-146a and identified a novel genetic variant (rs57095329) in the promoter region exhibiting evidence for association with SLE that was replicated independently in 7,182 Asians (Pmeta = 2.74×10−8, odds ratio = 1.29 [1.18–1.40]). The risk-associated G allele was linked to reduced expression of miR-146a in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the controls. Combined functional assays showed that the risk-associated G allele reduced the protein-binding affinity and activity of the promoter compared with those of the promoter containing the protective A allele. Transcription factor Ets-1, encoded by the lupus-susceptibility gene ETS1, identified in recent genome-wide association studies, binds near this variant. The manipulation of Ets-1 levels strongly affected miR-146a promoter activity in vitro; and the knockdown of Ets-1, mimicking its reduced expression in SLE, directly impaired the induction of miR-146a. We also observed additive effects of the risk alleles of miR-146a and ETS1. Our data identified and confirmed an association between a functional promoter variant of miR-146a and SLE. This risk allele had decreased binding to transcription factor Ets-1, contributing to reduced levels of miR-146a in SLE patients.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have identified quite a number of susceptibility loci associated with complex diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, for most of them, the intrinsic link between genetic variation and disease mechanism is not fully understood. SLE is characterized by a significantly upregulated type I interferon (IFN) pathway, and we have previously reported that underexpression of a microRNA, miR-146a, contributes to alterations in the type I IFN pathway in lupus patients. Here we identified a novel genetic variant in the promoter region of miR-146a that is directly related to reduced expression of miR-146a and is associated with SLE susceptibility. The risk allele of this variant confers weaker binding affinity for Ets-1, which is a transcription factor encoded by a lupus susceptibility gene found in recent GWAS. These findings suggest that reduced expression of Ets-1 and its reduced binding affinity to the miR-146a promoter both may contribute to low levels of this microRNA in SLE patients, which may contribute to the upregulated type I IFN pathway in these patients. To our knowledge, this is also the first piece of evidence showing association between a genetic variant in a promoter region of a miRNA gene and a human disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002128
PMCID: PMC3128113  PMID: 21738483
23.  Time to Renal Disease and End-Stage Renal Disease in PROFILE: A Multiethnic Lupus Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e396.
Background
Renal involvement is a serious manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); it may portend a poor prognosis as it may lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The purpose of this study was to determine the factors predicting the development of renal involvement and its progression to ESRD in a multi-ethnic SLE cohort (PROFILE).
Methods and Findings
PROFILE includes SLE patients from five different United States institutions. We examined at baseline the socioeconomic–demographic, clinical, and genetic variables associated with the development of renal involvement and its progression to ESRD by univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analyses. Analyses of onset of renal involvement included only patients with renal involvement after SLE diagnosis (n = 229). Analyses of ESRD included all patients, regardless of whether renal involvement occurred before, at, or after SLE diagnosis (34 of 438 patients). In addition, we performed a multivariable logistic regression analysis of the variables associated with the development of renal involvement at any time during the course of SLE.
In the time-dependent multivariable analysis, patients developing renal involvement were more likely to have more American College of Rheumatology criteria for SLE, and to be younger, hypertensive, and of African-American or Hispanic (from Texas) ethnicity. Alternative regression models were consistent with these results. In addition to greater accrued disease damage (renal damage excluded), younger age, and Hispanic ethnicity (from Texas), homozygosity for the valine allele of FcγRIIIa (FCGR3A*GG) was a significant predictor of ESRD. Results from the multivariable logistic regression model that included all cases of renal involvement were consistent with those from the Cox model.
Conclusions
Fcγ receptor genotype is a risk factor for progression of renal disease to ESRD. Since the frequency distribution of FCGR3A alleles does not vary significantly among the ethnic groups studied, the additional factors underlying the ethnic disparities in renal disease progression remain to be elucidated.
Fcγ receptor genotype is a risk factor for progression of renal disease to ESRD but does not explain the ethnic disparities in renal disease progression.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE, commonly known as “lupus”) is an illness of many manifestations that appear to result from the immune system attacking components of the body's own cells. One of the unfortunate effects of SLE is kidney damage, which can, in a minority of patients, progress to kidney failure (formally called “end-stage renal disease,” or ESRD). Compared to White Americans, other ethnic groups tend to develop renal complications of lupus more often and with worse outcomes.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is unclear why some people with lupus develop kidney problems. The purpose of this US-based study was to confirm the factors that increase the risk of kidney damage and kidney failure, particularly in racial and ethnic minority patients, and to determine which of these factors accelerate the pace of kidney disease. Knowing these risk factors could allow the development and targeting of interventions, such as screening tests and preventive treatments, to prevent long-term loss of kidney function in patients with lupus.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured a number of factors in a multi-ethnic group of 1,008 patients with lupus, almost half of whom had some degree of kidney involvement. They found that those who developed kidney damage after being diagnosed with lupus tended to be younger, to have had lupus for a longer time, and to have experienced more effects of lupus in general than those who did not have kidney involvement. Those who developed kidney problems were also more likely to have been unemployed, to have had fewer years of formal education, and to have had high blood pressure before developing kidney involvement. African-American and Texan Hispanic individuals with lupus were more likely to develop kidney involvement, and tended to develop it more rapidly, than White Americans or Puerto Rican Hispanic ethnicity. Actual kidney failure (ESRD requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation) was more likely to occur among Texan Hispanics with kidney involvement than in the other ethnic groups. Diabetes and high blood pressure were not found to predict ESRD, but people with a particular variant of a protein that helps antibodies bind to cells (know as Fc-gamma receptor IIIa, or FcγRIIIa) were found to be more likely to develop ESRD, and to develop it more quickly.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that the emergence and progression of kidney disease in patients with lupus depends on medical, genetic, and socioeconomic factors. Because no single test or intervention can be expected to address all of these factors, those treating patients with lupus must remain aware of the complexity of their patients lives at a variety of levels. In particular, ethnic disparities in the risk of serious kidney disease remain to be addressed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030396.
MedlinePlus page on lupus
Lupus Foundation of America
American College of Rheumatology pages on lupus
Wikipedia entry on lupus (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030396
PMCID: PMC1626549  PMID: 17076550
24.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003336
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
25.  Association of STAT4 Polymorphism with Severe Renal Insufficiency in Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84450.
Lupus nephritis is a cause of significant morbidity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and its genetic background has not been completely clarified. The aim of this investigation was to analyze single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for association with lupus nephritis, its severe form proliferative nephritis and renal outcome, in two Swedish cohorts. Cohort I (n = 567 SLE cases, n =  512 controls) was previously genotyped for 5676 SNPs and cohort II (n = 145 SLE cases, n = 619 controls) was genotyped for SNPs in STAT4, IRF5, TNIP1 and BLK.
Case-control and case-only association analyses for patients with lupus nephritis, proliferative nephritis and severe renal insufficiency were performed. In the case-control analysis of cohort I, four highly linked SNPs in STAT4 were associated with lupus nephritis with genome wide significance with p = 3.7×10−9, OR 2.20 for the best SNP rs11889341. Strong signals of association between IRF5 and an HLA-DR3 SNP marker were also detected in the lupus nephritis case versus healthy control analysis (p <0.0001). An additional six genes showed an association with lupus nephritis with p <0.001 (PMS2, TNIP1, CARD11, ITGAM, BLK and IRAK1). In the case-only meta-analysis of the two cohorts, the STAT4 SNP rs7582694 was associated with severe renal insufficiency with p  = 1.6×10−3 and OR 2.22. We conclude that genetic variations in STAT4 predispose to lupus nephritis and a worse outcome with severe renal insufficiency.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084450
PMCID: PMC3873995  PMID: 24386384

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