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1.  New insight on the Xq28 association with systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;72(12):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202742.
Objective
To evaluate whether the systemic sclerosis (SSc)-associated IRAK1 non-synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphism rs1059702 is responsible for the Xq28 association with SSc or whether there are other independent signals in the nearby methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 gene (MECP2).
Methods
We analysed a total of 3065 women with SSc and 2630 unaffected controls from five independent Caucasian cohorts. Four tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms of MECP2 (rs3027935, rs17435, rs5987201 and rs5945175) and the IRAK1 variant rs1059702 were genotyped using TaqMan predesigned assays. A meta-analysis including all cohorts was performed to test the overall effect of these Xq28 polymorphisms on SSc.
Results
IRAK1 rs1059702 and MECP2 rs17435 were associated specifically with diffuse cutaneous SSc (PFDR=4.12×10−3, OR=1.27, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.47, and PFDR=5.26×10−4, OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.48, respectively), but conditional logistic regression analysis showed that the association of IRAK1 rs1059702 with this subtype was explained by that of MECP2 rs17435. On the other hand, IRAK1 rs1059702 was consistently associated with presence of pulmonary fibrosis (PF), because statistical significance was observed when comparing SSc patients PF+ versus controls (PFDR=0.039, OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.58) and SSc patients PF+ versus SSc patients PF− (p=0.025, OR=1.26, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.55).
Conclusions
Our data clearly suggest the existence of two independent signals within the Xq28 region, one located in IRAK1 related to PF and another in MECP2 related to diffuse cutaneous SSc, indicating that both genes may have an impact on the clinical outcome of the disease.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202742
PMCID: PMC3818491  PMID: 23444193
2.  Can Serum Surfactant Protein D or CC-Chemokine Ligand 18 Predict Outcome of Interstitial Lung Disease in Patients with Early Systemic Sclerosis? 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(7):1114-1120.
Objective
To examine the predictive significance of 2 pneumoproteins, surfactant protein D (SP-D) and CC-chemokine ligand 18 (CCL18), for the course of systemic sclerosis (SSc)-related interstitial lung disease.
Methods
The pneumoproteins were determined in the baseline plasma samples of 266 patients with early SSc enrolled in the GENISOS observational cohort. They also were measured in 83 followup patient samples. Pulmonary function tests were obtained annually. The primary outcome was decline in forced vital capacity (FVC percentage predicted) over time. The predictive significance for longterm change in FVC was investigated by a joint analysis of longitudinal measurements (sequentially obtained FVC percentage predicted) and survival data.
Results
SP-D and CCL18 levels were both higher in patients with SSc than in matched controls (p < 0.001 and p = 0.015, respectively). Baseline SP-D levels correlated with lower concomitantly obtained FVC (r = −0.27, p < 0.001), but did not predict the short-term decline in FVC at 1 year followup visit or its longterm decline rate. CCL18 showed a significant correlation with steeper short-term decline in FVC (p = 0.049), but was not a predictor of its longterm decline rate. Similarly, a composite score of SP-D and CCL18 was a significant predictor of short-term decline in FVC but did not predict its longterm decline rate. Further, the longitudinal change in these 2 pneumoproteins did not correlate with the concomitant percentage change in FVC.
Conclusion
SP-D correlated with concomitantly obtained FVC, while CCL18 was a predictor of short-term decline in FVC. However, neither SP-D nor CCL18 was a longterm predictor of FVC course in patients with early SSc.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.120997
PMCID: PMC3728890  PMID: 23588945
SYSTEMIC SCLEROSIS; SURFACTANT D
3.  Implication of IL-2/IL-21 region in systemic sclerosis genetic susceptibility 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(7):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202357.
Objective
The interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interleukin 21 (IL-21) locus at chromosome 4q27 has been associated with several autoimmune diseases, and both genes are related to immune system functions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of the IL-2/IL-21 locus in systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Patients and methods
The case control study included 4493 SSc Caucasian patients and 5856 healthy controls from eight Caucasian populations (Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, USA, Italy, Sweden, UK and Norway). Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs2069762, rs6822844, rs6835457 and rs907715) were genotyped using TaqMan allelic discrimination assays.
Results
We observed evidence of association of the rs6822844 and rs907715 variants with global SSc (pc=6.6E-4 and pc=7.2E-3, respectively). Similar statistically significant associations were observed for the limited cutaneous form of the disease. The conditional regression analysis suggested that the most likely genetic variation responsible for the association was the rs6822844 polymorphism. Consistently, the rs2069762A-rs6822844T-rs6835457G-rs907715T allelic combination showed evidence of association with SSc and limited cutaneous SSc subtype (pc=1.7E-03 and pc=8E-4, respectively).
Conclusions
These results suggested that the IL-2/IL-21 locus influences the genetic susceptibility to SSc. Moreover, this study provided further support for the IL-2/IL-21 locus as a common genetic factor in autoimmune diseases.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202357
PMCID: PMC3887514  PMID: 23172754
4.  Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II alleles, haplotypes and epitopes which confer susceptibility or protection in systemic sclerosis: analyses in 1300 Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic cases and 1000 controls 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(5):822-827.
Objective
To determine human leucocyte antigen-class II (HLA-class II) (DRB1, DQB1, DQA1 and DPB1) alleles, haplotypes and shared epitopes associated with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis (SSc)) and its subphenotypes in a large multi-ethnic US cohort by a case–control association study.
Patients and methods
1300 SSc cases (961 white, 178 black and 161 Hispanic subjects) characterised for clinical skin forms (limited vs diffuse), SSc-specific autoantibodies (anticentromere (ACA), anti-topoisomerase I (ATA), anti-RNA polymerase III (ARA), anti-U3 ribonucleoprotein (fibrillarin)) and others were studied using molecular genotyping. Statistical analyses in SSc itself by ethnicity, gender, skin type and autoantibodies were performed using exact logistic regression modelling for dominant, additive and recessive effects from HLA.
Results
The strongest positive class II associations with SSc in white and Hispanic subjects were the DRB1*1104, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 haplotype and DQB1 alleles encoding a non-leucine residue at position 26 (DQB1 26 epi), while the DRB1*0701, DQA1*0201, DQB1*0202 haplotype and DRB1*1501 haplotype were negatively correlated and possibly protective in dominant and recessive models, respectively. These associations did not discriminate between limited and diffuse SSc. SSc in black subjects was associated with DRB1*0804, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 alleles. DPB1*1301 showed the highest odds ratio for ATA (OR = 14). Moreover, it showed no linkage disequilibrium or gene interaction with DR/DQ. ACA was best explained by DQB1*0501 and DQB1*26 epi alleles and ARA by DRB1*0404, DRB1*11 and DQB1*03 alleles in white and Hispanic subjects but DRB1*08 in black subjects.
Conclusion
These data indicate unique and multiple HLA-class II effects in SSc, especially on autoantibody markers of different subphenotypes.
doi:10.1136/ard.2009.111906
PMCID: PMC2916702  PMID: 19596691
5.  Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II alleles, haplotypes and epitopes which confer susceptibility or protection in systemic sclerosis: analyses in 1300 Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic cases and 1000 controls 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(5):822-827.
Objective
To determine human leucocyte antigen-class II (HLA-class II) (DRB1, DQB1, DQA1 and DPB1) alleles, haplotypes and shared epitopes associated with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis (SSc)) and its subphenotypes in a large multi-ethnic US cohort by a case–control association study.
Patients and methods
1300 SSc cases (961 white, 178 black and 161 Hispanic subjects) characterised for clinical skin forms (limited vs diffuse), SSc-specific autoantibodies (anticentromere (ACA), anti-topoisomerase I (ATA), anti-RNA polymerase III (ARA), anti-U3 ribonucleoprotein (fibrillarin)) and others were studied using molecular genotyping. Statistical analyses in SSc itself by ethnicity, gender, skin type and autoantibodies were performed using exact logistic regression modelling for dominant, additive and recessive effects from HLA.
Results
The strongest positive class II associations with SSc in white and Hispanic subjects were the DRB1*1104, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 haplotype and DQB1 alleles encoding a non-leucine residue at position 26 (DQB1 26 epi), while the DRB1*0701, DQA1*0201, DQB1*0202 haplotype and DRB1*1501 haplotype were negatively correlated and possibly protective in dominant and recessive models, respectively. These associations did not discriminate between limited and diffuse SSc. SSc in black subjects was associated with DRB1*0804, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 alleles. DPB1*1301 showed the highest odds ratio for ATA (OR = 14). Moreover, it showed no linkage disequilibrium or gene interaction with DR/DQ. ACA was best explained by DQB1*0501 and DQB1*26 epi alleles and ARA by DRB1*0404, DRB1*11 and DQB1*03 alleles in white and Hispanic subjects but DRB1*08 in black subjects.
Conclusion
These data indicate unique and multiple HLA-class II effects in SSc, especially on autoantibody markers of different subphenotypes.
doi:10.1136/ard.2009.111906
PMCID: PMC2916702  PMID: 19596691
6.  Confirmation of TNIP1 but not RHOB and PSORS1C1 as systemic sclerosis risk factors in a large independent replication study 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201888.
Introduction
A recent genome-wide association study in European systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients identified three loci (PSORS1C1, TNIP1 and RHOB) as novel genetic risk factors for the disease. The aim of this study was to replicate the previously mentioned findings in a large multicentre independent SSc cohort of Caucasian ancestry.
Methods
4389 SSc patients and 7611 healthy controls from different European countries and the USA were included in the study. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP): rs342070, rs13021401 (RHOB), rs2233287, rs4958881, rs3792783 (TNIP1) and rs3130573 (PSORS1C1) were analysed. Overall significance was calculated by pooled analysis of all the cohorts. Haplotype analyses and conditional logistic regression analyses were carried out to explore further the genetic structure of the tested loci.
Results
Pooled analyses of all the analysed SNPs in TNIP1 revealed significant association with the whole disease (rs2233287 pMH=1.94×10−4, OR 1.19; rs4958881 pMH=3.26×10−5, OR 1.19; rs3792783 pMH=2.16×10−4, OR 1.19). These associations were maintained in all the subgroups considered. PSORS1C1 comparison showed association with the complete set of patients and all the subsets except for the anti-centromere-positive patients. However, the association was dependent on different HLA class II alleles. The variants in the RHOB gene were not associated with SSc or any of its subsets.
Conclusions
These data confirmed the influence of TNIP1 on an increased susceptibility to SSc and reinforced this locus as a common autoimmunity risk factor.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201888
PMCID: PMC3887516  PMID: 22896740
7.  Anti-Fibrillarin Antibody in African American Patients with Systemic Sclerosis: Immunogenetics, Clinical Features, and Survival Analysis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2011;38(8):1622-1630.
Background
Anti-U3-RNP or anti-fibrillarin antibodies (AFA) are detected more frequently among African American (AA) patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) compared to other ethnic groups and are associated with distinct clinical features. The current study examines the immunogenetic, clinical, and survival correlates of AFA in a large group of AA patients with SSc.
Methods
Overall, 278 AA SSc patients and 328 unaffected AA controls were enrolled from three North American cohorts. Clinical features, autoantibody profile, and HLA-class-II genotyping were captured. To compare the clinical manifestations, relevant clinical features were adjusted for disease duration. The Cox proportional hazards regression was used to determine the effect of AFA on survival.
Results
Fifty (18.5%) AA patients had AFA. After Bonferroni correction, HLA-DRB1*08:04 was associated with AFA, compared to unaffected AA controls (OR=11.5, p<0.0001) and AFA negative SSc patients (OR=5.2, p=0.0002). AFA positive AA patients had younger age of disease onset, higher frequency of digital ulcers, diarrhea, pericarditis, higher Medsger Perivascular and lower Lung Severity Indices (p=0.004, p=0.014, p=0.019, p=0.092, p=0.006, and p=0.016, respectively). After adjustment for age at enrollment, AFA positive patients did not have different survival compared with patients without AFA (p=0.493).
Conclusion
These findings demonstrate strong association between AFA and HLA-DRB1*08:04 allele in AA patients with SSc. Moreover, AA SSc patients with AFA had younger age of onset, higher frequency of digital ulcers, pericarditis, and severe lower gastrointestinal involvement, but less severe lung involvement compared to AA patients without AFA. However, presence of AFA did not change survival.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.110071
PMCID: PMC3149738  PMID: 21572159
Scleroderma; GENISOS; anti-U3-RNP; digital ulcer; HLA DRB1; and Scleroderma Family Registry
8.  Correction: Right Bundle Branch Block: A Predictor of Mortality in Early Systemic Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):10.1371/annotation/f04ec0d0-8e33-487b-a619-b45ffbce6e3c.
doi:10.1371/annotation/f04ec0d0-8e33-487b-a619-b45ffbce6e3c
PMCID: PMC3882187
9.  Right Bundle Branch Block: A Predictor of Mortality in Early Systemic Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78808.
Objective
To evaluate the prognostic significance of baseline electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities in a multiethnic cohort of patients with early systemic sclerosis (SSc) and to determine the serological, clinical, and echocardiogram correlates of ECG findings.
Methods
SSc patients with disease duration of≤5 years were enrolled in the GENISOS (Genetics versus Environment in Scleroderma Outcome Study) cohort. At the first visit, a standard 12 lead ECG was obtained along with demographic information, clinical data, and autoantibodies. The results of echocardiograms were also recorded. All ECGs were interpreted by a cardiologist unaware of the patients' clinical data.
Results
Of 265 SSc patients with average disease duration at enrollment of 2.5 years, 140 (52.8%) had abnormal ECG findings. These findings were not associated with SSc disease type or autoantibody profile but were associated with more severe heart and lung involvement. A total of 75 patients (28.3%) died over a follow up time of 9.9 years. Complete right bundle branch block (± left anterior hemiblock) on ECG, present in 7 (2.6%) patients, predicted a higher risk of mortality (HR: 5.3; 95% CI: 2.1 to 13.4; p<0.001). The predictive significance of right bundle branch block was independent of age at enrollment, gender, ethnicity and risk factors for coronary artery disease.
Conclusion
ECG abnormalities are common in patients with early SSc and are associated with the severity of lung and heart involvement. Right bundle branch block is an independent predictor of mortality, and should be considered a marker of disease severity in SSc.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078808
PMCID: PMC3814983  PMID: 24205321
10.  Decreased catalytic function with altered sumoylation of DNA topoisomerase I in the nuclei of scleroderma fibroblasts 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(4):R128.
Introduction
Sumoylation is involved in nucleolus-nucleoplasm transport of DNA topoisomerase I (topo I), which may associate with changes of cellular and topo I functions. Skin fibroblasts of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) exhibit profibrotic cellular changes. The aims of this study were to examine the catalytic function and sumoylation of topo I in the nuclei of SSc fibroblasts, a major cell type involved in the fibrotic process.
Methods
Eleven pairs of fibroblast strains obtained from nonlesional skin biopsies of SSc patients and age/sex/ethnicity-matched normal controls were examined for catalytic function of nuclear topo I. Immunoprecipitation (IP)-Western blots were used to examine sumoylation of fibroblast topo I. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure transcript levels of SUMO1 and COL1A2 in the fibroblasts.
Results
Topo I in nuclear extracts of SSc fibroblasts generally showed a significantly lower efficiency than that of normal fibroblasts in relaxing equivalent amounts of supercoiled DNA. Increased sumoylation of topo I was clearly observed in 7 of 11 SSc fibroblast strains. Inhibition of SUMO1 with SUMO1 siRNA improved the catalytic efficiency of topo I in the SSc fibroblasts. In contrast, sumoylation of recombinant topo I proteins reduced their catalytic function.
Conclusions
The catalytic function of topo I was decreased in SSc fibroblasts, to which increased sumoylation of topo I may contribute.
doi:10.1186/ar3435
PMCID: PMC3239368  PMID: 21827649
11.  Toll-like receptor 3 upregulation by type I interferon in healthy and scleroderma dermal fibroblasts 
Introduction
Increased levels of genes in the type I interferon (IFN) pathway have been observed in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), or scleroderma. How type I IFN regulates the dermal fibroblast and its participation in the development of dermal fibrosis is not known. We hypothesized that one mechanism by which type I IFN may contribute to dermal fibrosis is through upregulation of specific Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on dermal fibroblasts. Therefore, we investigated the regulation of TLR expression on dermal fibroblasts by IFN.
Methods
The expression of TLRs was assessed in cultured dermal fibroblasts from control and SSc patients stimulated with IFNα2. The ability of IFNα2 to regulate TLR-induced interleukin (IL)-6 and CC chemokine ligand 2 production was also assessed. Immunohistochemical analyses were performed to determine whether TLR3 was expressed in skin biopsies in the bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis model and in patients with SSc.
Results
IFNα2 increased TLR3 expression on human dermal fibroblasts, which resulted in enhanced TLR3-induced IL-6 production. SSc fibroblasts have an augmented TLR3 response to IFNα2 relative to control fibroblasts. Pretreatment of fibroblasts with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β increased TLR3 induction by IFNα2, but coincubation of TGF-β did not alter TLR3 induction by IFN. Furthermore, IFNα2 inhibits but does not completely block the induction of connective tissue growth factor and collagen expression by TGF-βin fibroblasts. TLR3 expression was observed in dermal fibroblasts and inflammatory cells from skin biopsies from patients with SSc as well as in the bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis model.
Conclusions
Type I IFNs can increase the inflammatory potential of dermal fibroblasts through the upregulation of TLR3.
doi:10.1186/ar3221
PMCID: PMC3241348  PMID: 21223583
12.  Predictors of interstitial lung disease in early systemic sclerosis: a prospective longitudinal study of the GENISOS cohort 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(5):R166.
Introduction
The objective of the present study was to examine the association of baseline demographic and clinical characteristics with sequentially obtained measurements of forced vital capacity (FVC), expressed as a percentage of the predicted value, and to identify predictors of the decline rate in FVC over time in the Genetics versus Environment in Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS).
Methods
To date, 266 patients have been enrolled in GENISOS, a prospective, observational cohort of patients with early systemic sclerosis. In addition to pulmonary function tests (PFTs), clinical and laboratory data were obtained from each patient. We analyzed 926 FVC measurements utilizing generalized linear mixed models. The predictive significance of baseline variables for the decline rate in FVC was investigated by the interaction term between the variable and the follow-up time within the first 3 years after enrollment as well as throughout the entire follow-up time.
Results
The cohort consisted of 125 white, 54 African American, and 77 Hispanic patients with average disease duration of 2.5 years at enrollment. The mean follow-up time was 3.8 years, ranging up to 11.4 years. A number of baseline variables, including antibody status, African American ethnicity, disease type, baseline PFT values, modified Rodnan Skin Score, fibrosis on chest radiograph, and lung and skin subscores of the Severity Index, were associated with serially measured FVC levels. However, only the presence of anti-topoisomerase I antibodies (ATA) was associated with lower FVC levels (P < 0.001) as well as accelerated decline rate in FVC within the first 3 years of follow-up (P = 0.02). None of the baseline variables predicted the rate of decline in FVC on long-term follow-up. Patients with rapidly progressive ILD, however, were under-represented in the long-term follow-up group because the accelerated rate of decline in FVC was associated with poor survival (P = 0.001).
Conclusions
Presence of ATA was the only baseline variable associated with differential FVC levels, predicting the rate of decline in FVC within the first 3 years of follow-up. The association of faster decline in FVC with poor survival further emphasizes the need for identification of predictive biomarkers by collection of genetic information and serial blood samples in cohort studies.
doi:10.1186/ar3125
PMCID: PMC2990992  PMID: 20813056
13.  IRF5 polymorphism predicts prognosis in patients with systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(7):1197-1202.
Objective
The first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of systemic sclerosis (SSc) demonstrated three non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) susceptibility loci. The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of these gene variants on survival and severity of interstitial lung disease (ILD) in SSc.
Methods
The authors examined 1443 Caucasian SSc patients enrolled in the Genetics versus Environment In Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS) and Scleroderma Family Registry (n = 914 – discovery cohort) and The Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Cohort (n = 529 – replication cohort). Forced vital capacity (FVC)% predicted was used as a surrogate for ILD severity. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms, IRF5 (rs10488631, rs12537284, rs4728142), STAT4 (rs3821236), CD247 (rs2056626) reached genome-wide significance in the SSc-GWAS and were examined in the current study.
Results
Overall, 15.5% of the patients had died over the follow-up period of 5.5 years. The IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele was predictive of longer survival in the discovery cohort (p = 0.021) and in the independent replication cohort (p = 0.047) and combined group (HR: 0.75, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.90, p = 0.002). The association of this SNP with survival was independent of age at disease onset, disease type and autoantibody profile (anticentromere and antitopoisomerase antibodies). The minor allele frequency of IRF5 rs4728142 was 49.4%.
Moreover, IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele correlated with higher FVC% predicted at enrolment (p = 0.019). Finally, the IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele was associated with lower IRF5 transcript expression in patients and controls (p = 0.016 and p = 0.034, respectively), suggesting that the IRF5, rs4728142 SNP, may be functionally relevant.
Conclusion
An SNP in the IRF5 promoter region (rs4728142), associated with lower IRF5 transcript levels, was predictive of longer survival and milder ILD in patients with SSc.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200901
PMCID: PMC3375372  PMID: 22440820
14.  Identification of CSK as a systemic sclerosis genetic risk factor through Genome Wide Association Study follow-up 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(12):2825-2835.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is complex autoimmune disease affecting the connective tissue; influenced by genetic and environmental components. Recently, we performed the first successful genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SSc. Here, we perform a large replication study to better dissect the genetic component of SSc. We selected 768 polymorphisms from the previous GWAS and genotyped them in seven replication cohorts from Europe. Overall significance was calculated for replicated significant SNPs by meta-analysis of the replication cohorts and replication-GWAS cohorts (3237 cases and 6097 controls). Six SNPs in regions not previously associated with SSc were selected for validation in another five independent cohorts, up to a total of 5270 SSc patients and 8326 controls. We found evidence for replication and overall genome-wide significance for one novel SSc genetic risk locus: CSK [P-value = 5.04 × 10−12, odds ratio (OR) = 1.20]. Additionally, we found suggestive association in the loci PSD3 (P-value = 3.18 × 10−7, OR = 1.36) and NFKB1 (P-value = 1.03 × 10−6, OR = 1.14). Additionally, we strengthened the evidence for previously confirmed associations. This study significantly increases the number of known putative genetic risk factors for SSc, including the genes CSK, PSD3 and NFKB1, and further confirms six previously described ones.
doi:10.1093/hmg/dds099
PMCID: PMC3368627  PMID: 22407130
15.  Attenuation of fibrosis in vitro and in vivo with SPARC siRNA 
Introduction
SPARC is a matricellular protein, which, along with other extracellular matrix components including collagens, is commonly over-expressed in fibrotic diseases. The purpose of this study was to examine whether inhibition of SPARC can regulate collagen expression in vitro and in vivo, and subsequently attenuate fibrotic stimulation by bleomycin in mouse skin and lungs.
Methods
In in vitro studies, skin fibroblasts obtained from a Tgfbr1 knock-in mouse (TBR1CA; Cre-ER) were transfected with SPARC siRNA. Gene and protein expressions of the Col1a2 and the Ctgf were examined by real-time RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively. In in vivo studies, C57BL/6 mice were induced for skin and lung fibrosis by bleomycin and followed by SPARC siRNA treatment through subcutaneous injection and intratracheal instillation, respectively. The pathological changes of skin and lungs were assessed by hematoxylin and eosin and Masson's trichrome stains. The expression changes of collagen in the tissues were assessed by real-time RT-PCR and non-crosslinked fibrillar collagen content assays.
Results
SPARC siRNA significantly reduced gene and protein expression of collagen type 1 in fibroblasts obtained from the TBR1CA; Cre-ER mouse that was induced for constitutively active TGF-β receptor I. Skin and lung fibrosis induced by bleomycin was markedly reduced by treatment with SPARC siRNA. The anti-fibrotic effect of SPARC siRNA in vivo was accompanied by an inhibition of Ctgf expression in these same tissues.
Conclusions
Specific inhibition of SPARC effectively reduced fibrotic changes in vitro and in vivo. SPARC inhibition may represent a potential therapeutic approach to fibrotic diseases.
doi:10.1186/ar2973
PMCID: PMC2888211  PMID: 20359365
16.  Plasma cytokine profiles in systemic sclerosis: associations with autoantibody subsets and clinical manifestations 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(5):R147.
Introduction
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) (scleroderma) is a complex autoimmune disease that clinically manifests as progressive fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Anti-centromere antibodies (ACAs), anti-topoisomerase antibodies (ATAs), and anti-RNA polymerase III antibodies (ARAs) are three mutually exclusive SSc-associated autoantibodies that correlate with distinct clinical subsets characterized by extent of cutaneous involvement and pattern of organ involvement. The current report sought to determine whether plasma cytokine profiles differ in SSc patients grouped according to these SSc-associated autoantibody subsets.
Methods
Plasma from 444 SSc patients and 216 healthy controls was obtained from the Scleroderma Family Registry and University of Texas Rheumatology Division. Patients were classified according to the presence of ACAs, ATAs, ARAs, or none of the above (antibody-negative). Levels of 13 cytokines were determined using multiplex assays.
Results
Compared with females, healthy control males had higher plasma levels of IL-2 (P = 0.008), IL-5 (P = 0.01) and IL-8 (P = 0.01). In addition, in controls, IL-6 (P = 0.02) and IL-17 (P = 0.01) levels increased with advancing age. After adjusting for age and gender, SSc patients had higher circulating levels of TNFα (P < 0.0001), IL-6 (P < 0.0001), and IFNγ (P = 0.05) and lower IL-17 (P = 0.0005) and IL-23 (P = 0.014). Additional analyses demonstrated that disease duration also influenced these cytokine profiles. IL-6 was elevated in ATA-positive and ARA-positive patients, but not in ACA-positive patients. IL-8 was uniquely increased in the ATA-positive subset while both ATA-positive and ACA-positive subsets had elevated IFNγ and IL-10. IL-5 was only significantly increased in the ACA-positive subset. Lastly, patients with interstitial lung disease had elevated IL-6 and patients with pulmonary hypertension had elevated IL-6 and IL-13.
Conclusions
Plasma cytokine profiles differ in SSc patients based on the presence of SSc-associated autoantibodies. Plasma cytokine profiles in SSc patients may also be affected by disease duration and the pattern of internal organ involvement.
doi:10.1186/ar2821
PMCID: PMC2787259  PMID: 19799786
17.  A GWAS follow-up study reveals the association of the IL12RB2 gene with systemic sclerosis in Caucasian populations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):926-933.
A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) at the IL12RB2 locus showed a suggestive association signal in a previously published genome-wide association study (GWAS) in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Aiming to reveal the possible implication of the IL12RB2 gene in SSc, we conducted a follow-up study of this locus in different Caucasian cohorts. We analyzed 10 GWAS-genotyped SNPs in the IL12RB2 region (2309 SSc patients and 5161 controls). We then selected three SNPs (rs3790567, rs3790566 and rs924080) based on their significance level in the GWAS, for follow-up in an independent European cohort comprising 3344 SSc and 3848 controls. The most-associated SNP (rs3790567) was further tested in an independent cohort comprising 597 SSc patients and 1139 controls from the USA. After conditional logistic regression analysis of the GWAS data, we selected rs3790567 [PMH= 1.92 × 10−5 odds ratio (OR) = 1.19] as the genetic variant with the firmest independent association observed in the analyzed GWAS peak of association. After the first follow-up phase, only the association of rs3790567 was consistent (PMH= 4.84 × 10−3 OR = 1.12). The second follow-up phase confirmed this finding (Pχ2 = 2.82 × 10−4 OR = 1.34). After performing overall pooled-analysis of all the cohorts included in the present study, the association found for the rs3790567 SNP in the IL12RB2 gene region reached GWAS-level significant association (PMH= 2.82 × 10−9 OR = 1.17). Our data clearly support the IL12RB2 genetic association with SSc, and suggest a relevant role of the interleukin 12 signaling pathway in SSc pathogenesis.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr522
PMCID: PMC3298110  PMID: 22076442
18.  Novel identification of the IRF7 region as an anticentromere autoantibody propensity locus in systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(1):114-119.
Objective
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are related chronic autoimmune diseases of complex aetiology in which the interferon (IFN) pathway plays a key role. Recent studies have reported an association between IRF7 and SLE which confers a risk to autoantibody production. A study was undertaken to investigate whether the IRF7 genomic region is also involved in susceptibility to SSc and the main clinical features.
Methods
Two case-control sets of Caucasian origin from the USA and Spain, comprising a total of 2316 cases of SSc and 2347 healthy controls, were included in the study. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the PHRF1-IRF7-CDHR5 locus were genotyped using TaqMan allelic discrimination technology. A meta-analysis was performed to test the overall effect of these genetic variants on SSc.
Results
Four out of five analysed SNPs were Significantly associated with the presence of anticentromere autoantibodies (ACA) in the patients with SSc in the combined analysis (rs1131665: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.78; rs4963128: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.79; rs702966: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.82; and rs2246614: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.83). Significant p values were also obtained when the disease was tested globally; however, the statistical significance was lost when the ACA-positive patients were excluded from the study, suggesting that these associations rely on ACA positivity. Conditional logistic regression and allelic combination analyses suggested that the functional IRF7 SNP rs1131665 is the most likely causal variant.
Conclusions
The results show that variation in the IRF7 genomic region is associated with the presence of ACA in patients with SSc, supporting other evidence that this locus represents a common risk factor for autoantibody production in autoimmune diseases.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200275
PMCID: PMC3369428  PMID: 21926187
19.  Osteopontin in Systemic Sclerosis and its Role in Dermal Fibrosis 
Osteopontin (OPN) is a matricellular protein with proinflammatory and profibrotic properties. Previous reports demonstrate a role for OPN in wound healing and pulmonary fibrosis. Herein, we determined if OPN levels are increased in a large cohort of systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients and if OPN contributes dermal fibrosis. Plasma OPN levels were increased in SSc patients, including patients with limited and diffuse disease, compared to healthy controls. Immunohistology demonstrated OPN on fibroblast-like and inflammatory cells in SSc skin and lesional skin from mice in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. OPN deficient (OPN−/−) mice developed less dermal fibrosis compared to wild-type mice in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. Additional in vivo studies demonstrated that lesional skin from OPN−/− mice had fewer Mac-3+ cells, fewer myofibroblasts, decreased TGF-beta (TGFβ) and genes in the TGFβ pathway and decreased numbers of cells expressing phosphorylated SMAD2 (pSMAD) and ERK. In vitro, OPN−/− dermal fibroblasts had decreased migratory capacity but similar phosphorylation of SMAD2 by TGFβ. Finally, TGFβ production by OPN deficient macrophages was reduced compared to wild type. These data demonstrate an important role for OPN in the development of dermal fibrosis and suggest that OPN may be a novel therapeutic target in SSc.
doi:10.1038/jid.2012.32
PMCID: PMC3365548  PMID: 22402440
20.  Cigarette Smoking is not a Risk Factor for Systemic Sclerosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(10):3098-3102.
Background
The role of cigarette exposure in susceptibility to systemic sclerosis (SSc) has not been previously studied. Our objective was to investigate the association of smoking with susceptibility to SSc in a large well-defined patient population.
Methods
We conducted a review of 1,379 SSc patients enrolled in the Scleroderma Family Registry and DNA Repository and/or the Genetics versus Environment in Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS) cohort. Smoking history was obtained from chart review or via telephone interview. SSc patients were subsequently categorized as never smokers or ever smokers. SSc patients with available smoking data were matched 2:1 by age, gender, ethnicity and state of residence to controls using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Results
The majority of cases were White (74.2%) with Latinos and Blacks representing 11.3% and 9.7%, respectively. Most patients had limited disease type (54%). For our comparative analyses, 621 patients were matched to controls. There was no significant difference in age, gender, ethnicity and SSc disease type between matched versus unmatched patients. The majority of patients had never smoked (57%), while 43% of patients were ever smokers. The SSc patients did not differ in their smoking behavior from controls (p=0.842, OR: 1.020, 95% CI: 0.839–1.240). Anti-topoisomerase positive patients were more likely to be never smokers (p=0.049, OR=0.648, 95% CI=0.421–0.998) whereas no such association was found with the anti-centromere and anti-RNA Polymerase antibodies.
Conclusion
Unlike in rheumatoid arthritis, smoking does not confer a risk for development of SSc, though it may impact disease severity.
doi:10.1002/art.30492
PMCID: PMC3183145  PMID: 21647865
21.  Determinants of Work Disability in Patients with Systemic Sclerosis: A Longitudinal Study of the GENISOS Cohort 
Objectives
To determine the prevalence, correlates, and predictors of work disability (WD) in the Genetics versus ENvironment In Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS). We hypothesized that WD in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a function of demographic, clinical, and psychosocial factors.
Methods
Patients enrolled in the GENISOS cohort were subdivided in 3 groups: work disabled, working, and retired or homemakers. The latter group (n=29) was excluded from further analysis. We used logistic regression analysis with a forward hierarchical variable selection strategy to investigate the independent correlates of WD at enrollment. Cox regression proportional Hazard’s model with a similar variable selection strategy was utilized to determine the predictors of WD in those working at enrollment.
Results
Overall, 284 patients with mean age of 48.7 years and disease duration of 2.5 (±1.6) years were enrolled into the GENISOS cohort, consisting of 83.5% female, 46.8% Caucasian, 28.9% Hispanic, and 20.4% African American. Patients were longitudinally followed for 3.9 (±3.6) years in 1438 study visits. At enrollment, 124 patients (43.7%) were work disabled whereas 131 (46.1%) were working. Lower education (p<0.001), higher Medsger Lung Severity Index (p=0.012), higher Fatigue Severity Score (FSS) (p=0.008), and less social support (p<0.001) correlated independently with WD. Of those working at baseline, 35 (26.7%) eventually developed WD. Non-Caucasian ethnicity (p=0.038), lower DLCO %predicted value (p=0.038), and higher FSS (p=0.009) at enrollment independently predicted WD on follow-up visits.
Conclusion
Demographic, clinical, and psychosocial factors correlate with WD cross-sectionally and predict WD longitudinally in the patients with SSc.
doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2011.01.002
PMCID: PMC3153604  PMID: 21429562
Work disability; Systemic Sclerosis; Medsger Lung Severity Index; ISEL; SF-36; Fatigue
22.  Association Study of ITGAM, ITGAX, and CD58 Autoimmune Risk Loci in Systemic Sclerosis: Results from 2 Large European Caucasian Cohorts 
The Journal of Rheumatology  2011;38(6):1033-1038.
Objective
Accumulating evidence shows that shared autoimmunity is critical for the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. Systemic sclerosis (SSc) belongs to the connective tissue disorders, and recent data have highlighted strong associations with autoimmunity genes shared with other autoimmune diseases. To determine whether novel risk loci associated with systemic lupus erythematosus or multiple sclerosis may confer susceptibility to SSc, we tested single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) from ITGAM, ITGAX, and CD58 for associations.
Methods
SNP harboring associations with autoimmune diseases, ITGAM rs9937837, ITGAX rs11574637, and CD58 rs12044852, were genotyped in 2 independent cohorts of European Caucasian ancestry: 1031 SSc patients and 1014 controls from France and 1038 SSc patients and 691 controls from the USA, providing a combined study population of 3774 individuals. ITGAM rs1143679 was additionally genotyped in the French cohort.
Results
The 4 polymorphisms were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in the 2 control populations, and allelic frequencies were similar to those expected in European Caucasian populations. Allelic and genotypic frequencies for these 3 SNP were found to be statistically similar in SSc patients and controls. Subphenotype analyses for subgroups having diffuse cutaneous subtype disease, specific autoantibodies, or fibrosing alveolitis did not reveal any difference between SSc patients and controls.
Conclusion
These results obtained through 2 large cohorts of SSc patients of European Caucasian ancestry do not support the implication of ITGAM, ITGAX, and CD58 genes in the genetic susceptibility of SSc, although they were recently identified as autoimmune disease risk genes.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.101053
PMCID: PMC3404507  PMID: 21362770
SYSTEMIC SCLEROSIS; SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS; AUTOIMMUNITY SINGLE NUCLEOTIDE POLYMORPHISM; ITGAM; ITGAX; CD58
23.  Association of a functional IRF7 variant with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2011;63(3):749-754.
Objective
Previous genome wide association study conducted in a population of European ancestry identified rs4963128, a KIAA1542 SNP 23kb telomeric to IRF7, in strong association with SLE. This study was undertaken to investigate whether genetic polymorphism within IRF7 is a risk factor for the development of SLE.
Methods
We genotyped one KIAA1542 SNP rs4963128 and one IRF7 SNP rs1131665 (Q412R) in an Asian population (cases vs. controls: 1302 vs.1479) to assess their association with SLE using custom-designed Beadstation Infinium II platform (Illumina). Subsequently, rs1131665 was further genotyped in independent panels of Chinese (528 vs.527), European American (EA) (446 vs.461) and African American (AA) (159 vs.115) by Taqman genotyping assay to seek confirmation of association in various ethnic groups. Luciferase reporter assay was used to assess the effect of Q412R polymorphism on the activation of IRF7.
Results
Consistent association of rs1131665 (Q412R) with SLE was identified in Asian, EA and AA populations (case vs. control: 2435 vs. 2582; Pmeta = 6.18×10−6, OR = 1.42[1.22–1.65]). Expression of IRF7 412Q risk allele resulted in a 2-fold increase in ISRE transcriptional activity compared with expression of IRF7 412R (P = 0.0003), suggesting IRF7 412Q confers elevated IRF7 activity and may therefore affect downstream IFN pathway.
Conclusion
We showed that the major allele of a nonsynonymous SNP rs1131665 (412Q) in IRF7 confers elevated IRF7 activation and predisposes to the development of SLE in multiple ethnic groups. This result provides direct genetic evidence supporting IRF7 may be a risk gene for human SLE.
doi:10.1002/art.30193
PMCID: PMC3063317  PMID: 21360504
24.  HLA-DRB1*0407 and *1304 are Risk Factors for Scleroderma Renal Crisis 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2011;63(2):530-534.
OBJECTIVE
To examine the predictive role of HLA genetic markers for scleroderma renal crisis (SRC) beyond the known clinical correlates in a large population of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).
METHODS
SSc patients from the Scleroderma Family Registry and DNA Repository, Genetics versus Environment in Scleroderma Outcomes Study (GENISOS) and rheumatology divisional registry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston were included in the study. Relevant clinical data were obtained by chart review and autoantibodies were detected utilizing commercially available kits. HLA Class II genotyping was performed on extracted and purified genomic DNA.
RESULTS
Overall, 1519 SSc patients were included in this study, from which 90 patients (6%) had developed SRC. Among the 90 patients with SRC, diffuse cutaneous subtypes were found in 76%, anti-toposiomerase (ATA) in 9%, anti-centromere antibodies(ACA) in 2%, and anti-RNA polymerase III (ARA) in 50% of patients. In the multivariate analysis of clinical and demographic parameters, diffuse disease type and ARA were strong risk factors for presence of SRC, whereas ACA and ATA were protective. In the final multivariate analysis after inclusion of HLA alleles, we identified HLA-DRB1*0407 (OR=3.21, 95% CI 1.27–8.08; P=0.013) and DRB1*1304 (OR=4.51, 95% CI 1.30–15.65; P=0.018) as independent risk factors for SRC. Only 3 clinical characteristics, diffuse disease type, ARA, and ACA remained significant in the final model.
CONCLUSION
This study suggests that DRB1*0407 and *1304 are independent risk factors for development of SRC beyond the known clinical correlates.
doi:10.1002/art.30111
PMCID: PMC3048905  PMID: 21280007
25.  Whole-blood Gene Expression Profiling in Ankylosing Spondylitis Shows Upregulation of Toll-like Receptor 4 and 5 
The Journal of rheumatology  2010;38(1):87-98.
Objective
To identify differentially expressed genes in peripheral blood cells (PBC) of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) relative to healthy controls and controls with systemic inflammation.
Methods
We investigated PBC samples of 16 patients with AS and 14 matched controls, in addition to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and systemic sclerosis (SSc) samples utilizing Illumina Human Ref-8 BeadChips. Candidate genes were confirmed using quantitative PCR. Subsequently, these genes were also validated in a separate sample of 27 patients with AS [before and after antitumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) treatment] and 27 matched controls.
Results
We identified 83 differentially expressed transcripts between AS patients and controls. This gene list was filtered through the lists of differentially expressed transcripts in SLE and SSc, which resulted in identification of 52 uniquely dysregulated transcripts in AS. Many of the differentially expressed genes belonged to Toll-like receptor (TLR) and related pathways. TLR4 and TLR5 were the only dysregulated TLR subtypes among AS patients. We confirmed the overexpression of TLR4 and TLR5 in AS patients in comparison to controls (p = 0.012 and p = 0.006, respectively) and SLE (p = 0.002, p = 0.008) using quantitative PCR in the same sample. Similarly, TLR4 (p = 0.007) and TLR5 (p = 0.012) were significantly upregulated among the AS patients before anti-TNF treatment in the confirmatory sample. TLR4 (p = 0.002) and TLR5 (p = 0.025) decreased significantly after anti-TNF treatment.
Conclusion
PBC gene expression profiling in AS shows an upregulation of TLR4 and TLR5. This supports the importance of TLR subtypes in the pathogenesis of AS that are responsible for the immune response to Gram-negative bacteria.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.100469
PMCID: PMC3014385  PMID: 20952467
ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS; TOLL-LIKE RECEPTORS; IMMUNE SYSTEM; AUTOIMMUNITY; BACTERIA; GENE EXPRESSION PROFILING

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