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1.  The NOD2 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism rs72796353 (IVS4+10 A>C) Is a Predictor for Perianal Fistulas in Patients with Crohn's Disease in the Absence of Other NOD2 Mutations 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0116044.
A previous study suggested an association of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs72796353 (IVS4+10 A>C) in the NOD2 gene with susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (CD). However, this finding has not been confirmed. Given that NOD2 variants still represent the most important predictors for CD susceptibility and phenotype, we evaluated the association of rs72796353 with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) susceptibility and the IBD phenotype.
Genomic DNA from 2256 Caucasians, including 1073 CD patients, 464 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 719 healthy controls, was genotyped for the NOD2 SNP rs72796353 and the three main CD-associated NOD2 mutations rs2066844, rs2066845, and rs2066847. Subsequently, IBD association and genotype-phenotype analyses were conducted.
In contrast to the strong associations of the NOD2 SNPs rs2066844 (p=3.51 x 10-3), rs2066845 (p=1.54 x 10-2), and rs2066847 (p=1.61 x 10-20) with CD susceptibility, no significant association of rs72796353 with CD or UC susceptibility was found. However, in CD patients without the three main CD-associated NOD2 mutations, rs72796353 was significantly associated with the development of perianal fistulas (p=2.78 x 10-7, OR 5.27, [95% CI 2.75-10.12] vs. NOD2 wild-type carriers).
Currently, this study represents the largest genotype-phenotype analysis of the impact of the NOD2 variant rs72796353 on the disease phenotype in IBD. Our data demonstrate that in CD patients the IVS4+10 A>C variant is strongly associated with the development of perianal fistulas. This association is particularly pronounced in patients who are not carriers of the three main CD-associated NOD2 mutations, suggesting rs72796353 as additional genetic marker for the CD disease behaviour.
PMCID: PMC4493062  PMID: 26147989
2.  The NOD2 p.Leu1007fsX1008 Mutation (rs2066847) Is a Stronger Predictor of the Clinical Course of Crohn's Disease than the FOXO3A Intron Variant rs12212067 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e108503.
Very recently, a sub-analysis of genome-wide association scans revealed that the non-coding single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs12212067 in the FOXO3A gene is associated with a milder course of Crohn's disease (CD) (Cell 2013;155:57–69). The aim of our study was to evaluate the clinical value of the SNP rs12212067 in predicting the severity of CD by correlating CD patient genotype status with the most relevant complications of CD such as stenoses, fistulas, and CD-related surgery.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We genotyped 550 CD patients for rs12212067 (FOXO3A) and the three common CD-associated NOD2 mutations rs2066844, rs2066847, and rs2066847 and performed genotype-phenotype analyses.
No significant phenotypic differences were found between the wild-type genotype TT of the FOXO3A SNP rs12212067 and the minor genotypes TG and GG independently from NOD2 variants. The allele frequency of the minor G allele was 12.7%. Age at diagnosis, disease duration, body mass index, surgery rate, stenoses, fistula, need for immunosuppressive therapy, and disease course were not significantly different. In contrast, the NOD2 mutant p.Leu1007fsX1008 (rs2066847) was highly associated with penetrating CD (p = 0.01), the development of fistulas (p = 0.01) and stenoses (p = 0.01), and ileal disease localization (p = 0.03). Importantly, the NOD2 SNP rs2066847 was a strong separator between an aggressive and a mild course of CD (p = 2.99×10−5), while the FOXO3A SNP rs12212067 did not separate between mild and aggressive CD behavior in our cohort (p = 0.35). 96.2% of the homozygous NOD2 p.Leu1007fsX1008 carriers had an aggressive disease behavior compared to 69.3% of the patients with the NOD2 wild-type genotype (p = 0.007).
In clinical practice, the NOD2 variant p.Leu1007fsX1008 (rs2066847), in particular in homozygous form, is a much stronger marker for a severe clinical phenotype than the FOXO3A rs12212067 SNP for a mild disease course on an individual patient level despite its important impact on the inflammatory response of monocytes.
PMCID: PMC4217717  PMID: 25365249
3.  Oncostatin M Mediates STAT3-Dependent Intestinal Epithelial Restitution via Increased Cell Proliferation, Decreased Apoptosis and Upregulation of SERPIN Family Members 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93498.
Oncostatin M (OSM) is produced by activated T cells, monocytes, and dendritic cells and signals through two distinct receptor complexes consisting of gp130 and LIFR (I) or OSMR-β and gp130 (II), respectively. Aim of this study was to analyze the role of OSM in intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) and intestinal inflammation.
OSM expression and OSM receptor distribution was analyzed by PCR and immunohistochemistry experiments, signal transduction by immunoblotting. Gene expression studies were performed by microarray analysis and RT-PCR. Apoptosis was measured by caspases-3/7 activity. IEC migration and proliferation was studied in wounding and water soluble tetrazolium assays.
The IEC lines Caco-2, DLD-1, SW480, HCT116 and HT-29 express mRNA for the OSM receptor subunits gp130 and OSMR-β, while only HCT116, HT-29 and DLD-1 cells express LIFR mRNA. OSM binding to its receptor complex activates STAT1, STAT3, ERK-1/2, SAPK/JNK-1/2, and Akt. Microarray analysis revealed 79 genes that were significantly up-regulated (adj.-p≤0.05) by OSM in IEC. Most up-regulated genes belong to the functional categories “immunity and defense” (p = 2.1×10−7), “apoptosis” (p = 3.7×10−4) and “JAK/STAT cascade” (p = 3.4×10−6). Members of the SERPIN gene family were among the most strongly up-regulated genes. OSM significantly increased STAT3- and MEK1-dependent IEC cell proliferation (p<0.05) and wound healing (p = 3.9×10−5). OSM protein expression was increased in colonic biopsies of patients with active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
OSM promotes STAT3-dependent intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and wound healing in vitro. Considering the increased OSM expression in colonic biopsy specimens of patients with active IBD, OSM upregulation may modulate a barrier-protective host response in intestinal inflammation. Further in vivo studies are warranted to elucidate the exact role of OSM in intestinal inflammation and the potential of OSM as a drug target in IBD.
PMCID: PMC3977870  PMID: 24710357
4.  Intestinal DMBT1 Expression Is Modulated by Crohn’s Disease-Associated IL23R Variants and by a DMBT1 Variant Which Influences Binding of the Transcription Factors CREB1 and ATF-2 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77773.
DMBT is an antibacterial pattern recognition and scavenger receptor. In this study, we analyzed the role of DMBT1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) regarding inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) susceptibility and examined their functional impact on transcription factor binding and downstream gene expression.
Seven SNPs in the DMBT1 gene region were analyzed in 2073 individuals including 818 Crohn’s disease (CD) patients and 972 healthy controls in two independent case-control panels. Comprehensive epistasis analyses for the known CD susceptibility genes NOD2, IL23R and IL27 were performed. The influence of IL23R variants on DMBT1 expression was analyzed. Functional analysis included siRNA transfection, quantitative PCR, western blot, electrophoretic mobility shift and luciferase assays.
IL-22 induces DMBT1 protein expression in intestinal epithelial cells dependent on STAT3, ATF-2 and CREB1. IL-22 expression-modulating, CD risk-associated IL23R variants influence DMBT1 expression in CD patients and DMBT1 levels are increased in the inflamed intestinal mucosa of CD patients. Several DMBT1 SNPs were associated with CD susceptibility. SNP rs2981804 was most strongly associated with CD in the combined panel (p = 3.0×10−7, OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.24–1.63). All haplotype groups tested showed highly significant associations with CD (including omnibus P-values as low as 6.1×10−18). The most strongly CD risk-associated, non-coding DMBT1 SNP rs2981804 modifies the DNA binding sites for the transcription factors CREB1 and ATF-2 and the respective genomic region comprising rs2981804 is able to act as a transcriptional regulator in vitro. Intestinal DMBT1 expression is decreased in CD patients carrying the rs2981804 CD risk allele.
We identified novel associations of DMBT1 variants with CD susceptibility and discovered a novel functional role of rs2981804 in regulating DMBT1 expression. Our data suggest an important role of DMBT1 in CD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3818382  PMID: 24223725
5.  IRGM Variants and Susceptibility to Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the German Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54338.
Background & Aims
Genome-wide association studies identified the autophagy gene IRGM to be strongly associated with Crohn's disease (CD) but its impact in ulcerative colitis (UC), its phenotypic effects and potential epistatic interactions with other IBD susceptibility genes are less clear which we therefore analyzed in this study.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2060 individuals including 817 CD patients, 283 UC patients, and 961 healthy, unrelated controls (all of Caucasian origin) was analyzed for six IRGM single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs13371189, rs10065172 = p.Leu105Leu, rs4958847, rs1000113, rs11747270, rs931058). In all patients, a detailed genotype-phenotype analysis and testing for epistasis with the three major CD susceptibility genes NOD2, IL23R and ATG16L1 were performed.
Our analysis revealed an association of the IRGM SNPs rs13371189 (p = 0.02, OR 1.31 [95% CI 1.05–1.65]), rs10065172 = p.Leu105Leu (p = 0.016, OR 1.33 [95% CI 1.06–1.66]) and rs1000113 (p = 0.047, OR 1.27 [95% CI 1.01–1.61]) with CD susceptibility. There was linkage disequilibrium between these three IRGM SNPs. In UC, several IRGM haplotypes were weakly associated with UC susceptibility (p<0.05). Genotype-phenotype analysis revealed no significant associations with a specific IBD phenotype or ileal CD involvement. There was evidence for weak gene-gene-interaction between several SNPs of the autophagy genes IRGM and ATG16L1 (p<0.05), which, however, did not remain significant after Bonferroni correction.
Our results confirm IRGM as susceptibility gene for CD in the German population, supporting a role for the autophagy genes IRGM and ATG16L1 in the pathogenesis of CD.
PMCID: PMC3554777  PMID: 23365659
6.  PTGER4 Expression-Modulating Polymorphisms in the 5p13.1 Region Predispose to Crohn's Disease and Affect NF-κB and XBP1 Binding Sites 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52873.
Genome-wide association studies identified a PTGER4 expression-modulating region on chromosome 5p13.1 as Crohn's disease (CD) susceptibility region. The study aim was to test this association in a large cohort of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and to elucidate genotypic and phenotypic interactions with other IBD genes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total of 7073 patients and controls were genotyped: 844 CD and 471 patients with ulcerative colitis and 1488 controls were analyzed for the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs4495224 and rs7720838 on chromosome 5p13.1. The study included two replication cohorts of North American (CD: n = 684; controls: n = 1440) and of German origin (CD: n = 1098; controls: n = 1048). Genotype-phenotype, epistasis and transcription factor binding analyses were performed. In the discovery cohort, an association of rs4495224 (p = 4.10×10−5; 0.76 [0.67–0.87]) and of rs7720838 (p = 6.91×10−4; 0.81 [0.71–0.91]) with susceptibility to CD was demonstrated. These associations were confirmed in both replication cohorts. In silico analysis predicted rs4495224 and rs7720838 as essential parts of binding sites for the transcription factors NF-κB and XBP1 with higher binding scores for carriers of the CD risk alleles, providing an explanation of how these SNPs might contribute to increased PTGER4 expression. There was no association of the PTGER4 SNPs with IBD phenotypes. Epistasis detected between 5p13.1 and ATG16L1 for CD susceptibility in the discovery cohort (p = 5.99×10−7 for rs7720838 and rs2241880) could not be replicated in both replication cohorts arguing against a major role of this gene-gene interaction in the susceptibility to CD.
We confirmed 5p13.1 as a major CD susceptibility locus and demonstrate by in silico analysis rs4495224 and rs7720838 as part of binding sites for NF-κB and XBP1. Further functional studies are necessary to confirm the results of our in silico analysis and to analyze if changes in PTGER4 expression modulate CD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3531335  PMID: 23300802
7.  Analysis of IL12B Gene Variants in Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34349.
IL12B encodes the p40 subunit of IL-12, which is also part of IL-23. Recent genome-wide association studies identified IL12B and IL23R as susceptibility genes for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the phenotypic effects and potential gene-gene interactions of IL12B variants are largely unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed IL12B gene variants regarding association with Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Genomic DNA from 2196 individuals including 913 CD patients, 318 UC patients and 965 healthy, unrelated controls was analyzed for four SNPs in the IL12B gene region (rs3212227, rs17860508, rs10045431, rs6887695). Our analysis revealed an association of the IL12B SNP rs6887695 with susceptibility to IBD (p = 0.035; OR 1.15 [95% CI 1.01–1.31] including a trend for rs6887695 for association with CD (OR 1.41; [0.99–1.31], p = 0.066) and UC (OR 1.18 [0.97–1.43], p = 0.092). CD patients, who were homozygous C/C carriers of this SNP, had significantly more often non-stricturing, non-penetrating disease than carriers of the G allele (p = 6.8×10−5; OR = 2.84, 95% CI 1.66–4.84), while C/C homozygous UC patients had less often extensive colitis than G allele carriers (p = 0.029; OR = 0.36, 95% CI 0.14–0.92). In silico analysis predicted stronger binding of the minor C allele of rs6887695 to the transcription factor RORα which is involved in Th17 differentiation. Differences regarding the binding to the major and minor allele sequence of rs6887695 were also predicted for the transcription factors HSF1, HSF2, MZF1 and Oct-1. Epistasis analysis revealed weak epistasis of the IL12B SNP rs6887695 with several SNPs (rs11889341, rs7574865, rs7568275, rs8179673, rs10181656, rs7582694) in the STAT4 gene which encodes the major IL-12 downstream transcription factor STAT4 (p<0.05) but there was no epistasis between IL23R and IL12B variants.
The IL12B SNP rs6887695 modulates the susceptibility and the phenotype of IBD, although the effect on IBD susceptibilty is less pronounced than that of IL23R gene variants.
PMCID: PMC3316707  PMID: 22479607
8.  PTPN2 Gene Variants Are Associated with Susceptibility to Both Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Supporting a Common Genetic Disease Background 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33682.
Genome-wide association studies identified PTPN2 (protein tyrosine phosphatase, non-receptor type 2) as susceptibility gene for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). However, the exact role of PTPN2 in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) and its phenotypic effect are unclear. We therefore performed a detailed genotype-phenotype and epistasis analysis of PTPN2 gene variants.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2131 individuals of Caucasian origin (905 patients with CD, 318 patients with UC, and 908 healthy, unrelated controls) was analyzed for two SNPs in the PTPN2 region (rs2542151, rs7234029) for which associations with IBD were found in previous studies in other cohorts. Our analysis revealed a significant association of PTPN2 SNP rs2542151 with both susceptibility to CD (p = 1.95×10−5; OR 1.49 [1.34–1.79]) and UC (p = 3.87×10−2, OR 1.31 [1.02–1.68]). Moreover, PTPN2 SNP rs7234029 demonstrated a significant association with susceptibility to CD (p = 1.30×10−3; OR 1.35 [1.13–1.62]) and a trend towards association with UC (p = 7.53×10−2; OR 1.26 [0.98–1.62]). Genotype-phenotype analysis revealed an association of PTPN2 SNP rs7234029 with a stricturing disease phenotype (B2) in CD patients (p = 6.62×10−3). Epistasis analysis showed weak epistasis between the ATG16L1 SNP rs2241879 and PTPN2 SNP rs2542151 (p = 0.024) in CD and between ATG16L1 SNP rs4663396 and PTPN2 SNP rs7234029 (p = 4.68×10−3) in UC. There was no evidence of epistasis between PTPN2 and NOD2 and PTPN2 and IL23R. In silico analysis revealed that the SNP rs7234029 modulates potentially the binding sites of several transcription factors involved in inflammation including GATA-3, NF-κB, C/EBP, and E4BP4.
Our data confirm the association of PTPN2 variants with susceptibility to both CD and UC, suggesting a common disease pathomechanism for these diseases. Given recent evidence that PTPN2 regulates autophagosome formation in intestinal epithelial cells, the potential link between PTPN2 and ATG16L1 should be further investigated.
PMCID: PMC3310077  PMID: 22457781
9.  The Role of Osteopontin (OPN/SPP1) Haplotypes in the Susceptibility to Crohn's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29309.
Osteopontin represents a multifunctional molecule playing a pivotal role in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Its expression is increased in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The aim of our study was to analyze the association of osteopontin (OPN/SPP1) gene variants in a large cohort of IBD patients.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2819 Caucasian individuals (n = 841 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), n = 473 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and n = 1505 healthy unrelated controls) was analyzed for nine OPN SNPs (rs2728127, rs2853744, rs11730582, rs11739060, rs28357094, rs4754 = p.Asp80Asp, rs1126616 = p.Ala236Ala, rs1126772 and rs9138). Considering the important role of osteopontin in Th17-mediated diseases, we performed analysis for epistasis with IBD-associated IL23R variants and analyzed serum levels of the Th17 cytokine IL-22. For four OPN SNPs (rs4754, rs1126616, rs1126772 and rs9138), we observed significantly different distributions between male and female CD patients. rs4754 was protective in male CD patients (p = 0.0004, OR = 0.69). None of the other investigated OPN SNPs was associated with CD or UC susceptibility. However, several OPN haplotypes showed significant associations with CD susceptibility. The strongest association was found for a haplotype consisting of the 8 OPN SNPs rs2728127-rs2853744-rs11730582-rs11439060-rs28357094-rs112661-rs1126772-rs9138 (omnibus p-value = 2.07×10−8). Overall, the mean IL-22 secretion in the combined group of OPN minor allele carriers with CD was significantly lower than that of CD patients with OPN wildtype alleles (p = 3.66×10−5). There was evidence for weak epistasis between the OPN SNP rs28357094 with the IL23R SNP rs10489629 (p = 4.18×10−2) and between OPN SNP rs1126616 and IL23R SNP rs2201841 (p = 4.18×10−2) but none of these associations remained significant after Bonferroni correction.
Our study identified OPN haplotypes as modifiers of CD susceptibility, while the combined effects of certain OPN variants may modulate IL-22 secretion.
PMCID: PMC3248444  PMID: 22242114
10.  Expression and regulation of the chemokine CXCL16 in Crohn’s disease and models of intestinal inflammation 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2010;16(11):1871-1881.
CXCL16 mediates adhesion and phagocytosis of both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and is a strong chemoattractant for CXCR6+ T cells. In this study, we determined the so far unknown expression and signal transduction of the novel CXCL16-CXCR6 chemokine-ligand receptor system in intestinal inflammation in vivo and in vitro.
CXCL16 mRNA was measured by quantitative PCR in human colonic biopsies of patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) as well as in the TNFΔARE mouse model of ileitis and in murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV)-induced colitis. CXCL16 serum levels were analyzed by ELISA. CXCL16-induced signal transduction was analyzed in IEC with phospho-specific antibodies for MAP kinases and Akt.
We found an inverse expression pattern of CXCL16 and CXCR6 with highest CXCL16 mRNA levels in the proximal murine small intestine and highest CXCR6 mRNA expression in the distal colon. CXCL16 and CXCR6 mRNA were expressed in colorectal cancer (CRC)-derived IEC lines. CRC-expressed CXCR6 was functional as demonstrated by CXCL16-induced MAP kinase and Akt activation. Intestinal CXCL16 expression was elevated in the TNFΔARE mouse model of ileitis and in MCMV-induced colitis (p<0.05) and in the sera and colons of patients with CD (p<0.05), where its expression correlated highly with CXCR6 and IL-8 levels (r=0.85 and 0.89, respectively).
CRC-derived IEC express the functional CXCL16 receptor CXCR6. CXCL16 mRNA and protein expression is up-regulated in intestinal inflammation in vitro and in CD patients, suggesting an important role for this chemokine in intestinal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2981128  PMID: 20848509
Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; inflammatory bowel disease; chemokine; CXCL16; CXCR6; mouse model; intestinal inflammation; intestinal epithelial cells; cytokine; signaling
11.  CEACAM6 Gene Variants in Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19319.
The carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 6 (CEACAM6) acts as a receptor for adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) and its ileal expression is increased in patients with Crohn's disease (CD). Given its contribution to the pathogenesis of CD, we aimed to investigate the role of genetic variants in the CEACAM6 region in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
In this study, a total of 2,683 genomic DNA samples (including DNA from 858 CD patients, 475 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 1,350 healthy, unrelated controls) was analyzed for eight CEACAM6 SNPs (rs10415946, rs1805223 = p.Pro42Pro, rs4803507, rs4803508, rs11548735 = p.Gly239Val, rs7246116 = pHis260His, rs2701, rs10416839). In addition, a detailed haplotype analysis and genotype-phenotype analysis were performed. Overall, our genotype analysis did not reveal any significant association of the investigated CEACAM6 SNPs and haplotypes with CD or UC susceptibility, although certain CEACAM6 SNPs modulated CEACAM6 expression in intestinal epithelial cell lines. Despite its function as receptor of AIEC in ileal CD, we found no association of the CEACAM6 SNPs with ileal or ileocolonic CD. Moreover, there was no evidence of epistasis between the analyzed CEACAM6 variants and the main CD-associated NOD2, IL23R and ATG16L1 variants.
This study represents the first detailed analysis of CEACAM6 variants in IBD patients. Despite its important role in bacterial attachment in ileal CD, we could not demonstrate a role for CEACAM6 variants in IBD susceptibility or regarding an ileal CD phenotype. Further functional studies are required to analyze if these gene variants modulate ileal bacterial attachment.
PMCID: PMC3084820  PMID: 21559399
12.  The NOD2 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms rs2066843 and rs2076756 Are Novel and Common Crohn's Disease Susceptibility Gene Variants 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14466.
The aims were to analyze two novel NOD2 variants (rs2066843 and rs2076756) in a large cohort of patients with inflammatory bowel disease and to elucidate phenotypic consequences.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2700 Caucasians including 812 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), 442 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 1446 healthy controls was analyzed for the NOD2 SNPs rs2066843 and rs2076756 and the three main CD-associated NOD2 variants p.Arg702Trp (rs2066844), p.Gly908Arg (rs2066847), and p.Leu1007fsX1008 (rs2066847). Haplotype and genotype-phenotype analyses were performed. The SNPs rs2066843 (p = 3.01×10−5, OR 1.48, [95% CI 1.23-1.78]) and rs2076756 (p = 4.01×10−6; OR 1.54, [95% CI 1.28-1.86]) were significantly associated with CD but not with UC susceptibility. Haplotype analysis revealed a number of significant associations with CD susceptibility with omnibus p values <10−10. The SNPs rs2066843 and rs2076756 were in linkage disequilibrium with each other and with the three main CD-associated NOD2 mutations (D'>0.9). However, in CD, SNPs rs2066843 and rs2076756 were more frequently observed than the other three common NOD2 mutations (minor allele frequencies for rs2066843 and rs2076756: 0.390 and 0.380, respectively). In CD patients homozygous for these novel NOD2 variants, genotype-phenotype analysis revealed higher rates of a penetrating phenotype (rs2076756: p = 0.015) and fistulas (rs2076756: p = 0.015) and significant associations with CD-related surgery (rs2076756: p = 0.003; rs2066843: p = 0.015). However, in multivariate analysis only disease localization (p<2×10−16) and behaviour (p = 0.02) were significantly associated with the need for surgery.
The NOD2 variants rs2066843 and rs2076756 are novel and common CD susceptibility gene variants.
PMCID: PMC3012690  PMID: 21209938
13.  Comparative Analysis of the Lambda-Interferons IL-28A and IL-29 regarding Their Transcriptome and Their Antiviral Properties against Hepatitis C Virus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15200.
Specific differences in signaling and antiviral properties between the different Lambda-interferons, a novel group of interferons composed of IL-28A, IL-28B and IL-29, are currently unknown. This is the first study comparatively investigating the transcriptome and the antiviral properties of the Lambda-interferons IL-28A and IL-29.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Expression studies were performed by microarray analysis, quantitative PCR (qPCR), reporter gene assays and immunoluminometric assays. Signaling was analyzed by Western blot. HCV replication was measured in Huh-7 cells expressing subgenomic HCV replicon. All hepatic cell lines investigated as well as primary hepatocytes expressed both IFN-λ receptor subunits IL-10R2 and IFN-λR1. Both, IL-28A and IL-29 activated STAT1 signaling. As revealed by microarray analysis, similar genes were induced by both cytokines in Huh-7 cells (IL-28A: 117 genes; IL-29: 111 genes), many of them playing a role in antiviral immunity. However, only IL-28A was able to significantly down-regulate gene expression (n = 272 down-regulated genes). Both cytokines significantly decreased HCV replication in Huh-7 cells. In comparison to liver biopsies of patients with non-viral liver disease, liver biopsies of patients with HCV showed significantly increased mRNA expression of IL-28A and IL-29. Moreover, IL-28A serum protein levels were elevated in HCV patients. In a murine model of viral hepatitis, IL-28 expression was significantly increased.
IL-28A and IL-29 are up-regulated in HCV patients and are similarly effective in inducing antiviral genes and inhibiting HCV replication. In contrast to IL-29, IL-28A is a potent gene repressor. Both IFN-λs may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of chronic HCV.
PMCID: PMC2999541  PMID: 21170333
14.  Evidence for STAT4 as a Common Autoimmune Gene: rs7574865 Is Associated with Colonic Crohn's Disease and Early Disease Onset 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10373.
Recent studies demonstrated an association of STAT4 variants with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), indicating that multiple autoimmune diseases share common susceptibility genes. We therefore investigated the influence of STAT4 variants on the susceptibility and phenotype of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in a large patient and control cohort.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Genomic DNA from 2704 individuals of Caucasian origin including 857 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), 464 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 1383 healthy, unrelated controls was analyzed for seven SNPs in the STAT4 gene (rs11889341, rs7574865, rs7568275, rs8179673, rs10181656, rs7582694, rs10174238). In addition, a detailed genotype-phenotype analysis was performed. Our analysis revealed an association of the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 with overall decreased susceptibility to CD (p = 0.047, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.74–0.99]). However, compared to CD patients carrying the wild type genotype, the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 was significantly associated with early CD onset (p = 0.021) and colonic CD (p = 0.008; OR = 4.60, 95% CI 1.63–12.96). For two other STAT4 variants, there was a trend towards protection against CD susceptibility (rs7568275, p = 0.058, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.74–1.00]; rs10174238, p = 0.057, OR 0.86 [95% CI 0.75–1.00]). In contrast, we did not observe any association with UC susceptibility. Evidence for weak gene-gene interaction of STAT4 with the IL23R SNP rs11209026 was lost after Bonferroni correction.
Our results identified the STAT4 SNP rs7574865 as a disease-modifying gene variant in colonic CD. However, in contrast to SLE and RA, the effect of rs7574865 on CD susceptibility is only weak.
PMCID: PMC2861592  PMID: 20454450
15.  The Cannabinoid 1 Receptor (CNR1) 1359 G/A Polymorphism Modulates Susceptibility to Ulcerative Colitis and the Phenotype in Crohn's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9453.
Recent evidence suggests a crucial role of the endocannabinoid system, including the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CNR1), in intestinal inflammation. We therefore investigated the influence of the CNR1 1359 G/A (p.Thr453Thr; rs1049353) single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on disease susceptibility and phenotype in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD).
Genomic DNA from 579 phenotypically well-characterized individuals was analyzed for the CNR1 1359 G/A SNP. Amongst these were 166 patients with UC, 216 patients with CD, and 197 healthy controls.
Compared to healthy controls, subjects A/A homozygous for the CNR1 1359 G/A SNP had a reduced risk to develop UC (p = 0.01, OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.12–0.78). The polymorphism did not modulate CD susceptibility, but carriers of the minor A allele had a lower body mass index than G/G wildtype carriers (p = 0.0005). In addition, homozygous carriers of the G allele were more likely to develop CD before 40 years of age (p = 5.9×10−7) than carriers of the A allele.
The CNR1 p.Thr453Thr polymorphism appears to modulate UC susceptibility and the CD phenotype. The endocannabinoid system may influence the manifestation of inflammatory bowel diseases, suggesting endocannabinoids as potential target for future therapies.
PMCID: PMC2829088  PMID: 20195480

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