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1.  Studies on ageing and the severity of radiographic joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis 
The western population is ageing. It is unknown whether age at diagnosis affects the severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), we therefore performed the present study.
1,875 RA-patients (7,219 radiographs) included in five European and North-American cohorts (Leiden-EAC, Wichita, Umeå, Groningen and Lund) were studied on associations between age at diagnosis and joint damage severity. In 698 Leiden RA-patients with 7-years follow-up it was explored if symptom duration, anti-citrullinated-peptide-antibodies (ACPA), swollen joint count (SJC) and C-reactive-protein (CRP) mediated the association of age with joint damage. Fifty-six other RA-patients of the EAC-cohort underwent baseline MRIs of wrist, MCP and MTP-joints; MRI-inflammation (RAMRIS-synovitis plus bone marrow edema) was also evaluated in mediation analyses. Linear regression and multivariate normal regression models were used.
Analysis on the five cohorts and the Leiden-EAC separately revealed 1.026-fold and 1.034-fold increase of radiographic joint damage per year increase in age (β=1.026, 1.034, both p<0.001); this effect was present at baseline and persisted over time. Age correlated stronger with baseline erosion-scores compared to joint space narrowing (JSN)-scores (r=0.38 versus 0.29). Symptom duration, ACPA, SJC and CRP did not mediate the association of age with joint damage severity. Age was significantly associated with the MRI-inflammation-score after adjusting for CRP and SJC (β=1.018, p=0.027). The association of age with joint damage (β=1.032, p=0.004) decreased after also including the MRI-inflammation-score (β=1.025, p=0.021), suggesting partial mediation.
RA-patients presenting at higher age have more severe joint damage; this might be partially explained by more severe MRI-detected inflammation at higher age.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0740-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4547419  PMID: 26299443
2.  Genome-wide meta-analysis in alopecia areata resolves HLA associations and reveals two new susceptibility loci 
Nature communications  2015;6:5966.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a prevalent autoimmune disease with ten known susceptibility loci. Here we perform the first meta-analysis in AA by combining data from two genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and replication with supplemented ImmunoChip data for a total of 3,253 cases and 7,543 controls. The strongest region of association is the MHC, where we fine-map 4 independent effects, all implicating HLA-DR as a key etiologic driver. Outside the MHC, we identify two novel loci that exceed statistical significance, containing ACOXL/BCL2L11(BIM) (2q13); GARP (LRRC32) (11q13.5), as well as a third nominally significant region SH2B3(LNK)/ATXN2 (12q24.12). Candidate susceptibility gene expression analysis in these regions demonstrates expression in relevant immune cells and the hair follicle. We integrate our results with data from seven other autoimmune diseases and provide insight into the alignment of AA within these disorders. Our findings uncover new molecular pathways disrupted in AA, including autophagy/apoptosis, TGFß/Tregs and JAK kinase signaling, and support the causal role of aberrant immune processes in AA.
PMCID: PMC4451186  PMID: 25608926
3.  Risk for Myasthenia Gravis maps to 151Pro→ Ala change in TNIP1 and to HLA-B*08 
Annals of neurology  2012;72(6):927-935.
The objective of this study is to comprehensively define the genetic basis of Early Onset Myasthenia Gravis.
We have carried out a two-stage genome-wide association study on a total of 649 North European EOMG patients. Cases were matched 1:4 with controls of European ancestry. We performed imputation and conditional analyses across the major histocompatibility complex, as well as in the top regions of association outside the HLA region.
We observed the strongest association in the HLA class I region at rs7750641 (p = 1.2 × 10−92, OR = 6.25). By imputation and conditional analyses, HLA-B*08 proves to be the major associated allele (p = 2.87 × 10−113, OR = 6.41). In addition to the expected association with PTPN22 (rs2476601, OR =1.71, p = 8.2 ×10−10), an imputed coding variant (rs2233290) at position 151 (Pro→Ala) in the TNFAIP3-interacting protein 1, TNIP1, confers even stronger risk than PTPN22 (OR = 1.91, p = 3.2 × 10−10).
The association at TNIP1 in EOMG implies disease mechanisms involving ubiquitin-dependent dysregulation of NF-κB signaling. The localization of the major HLA signal to the HLA-B*08 allele suggests that CD8+ T-cells may play a key role in disease initiation or pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3535539  PMID: 23055271
4.  High-Density Genotyping of Immune Loci in Koreans and Europeans Identifies Eight New Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk Loci 
A highly polygenic etiology and high degree of allele-sharing between ancestries have been well-elucidated in genetic studies of rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, the high-density genotyping array Immunochip for immune disease loci identified 14 new rheumatoid arthritis risk loci among individuals of European ancestry. Here, we aimed to identify new rheumatoid arthritis risk loci using Korean-specific Immunochip data.
We analyzed Korean rheumatoid arthritis case-control samples using the Immunochip and GWAS array to search for new risk alleles of rheumatoid arthritis with anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies. To increase power, we performed a meta-analysis of Korean data with previously published European Immunochip and GWAS data, for a total sample size of 9,299 Korean and 45,790 European case-control samples.
We identified 8 new rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility loci (TNFSF4, LBH, EOMES, ETS1–FLI1, COG6, RAD51B, UBASH3A and SYNGR1) that passed a genome-wide significance threshold (p<5×10−8), with evidence for three independent risk alleles at 1q25/TNFSF4. The risk alleles from the 7 new loci except for the TNFSF4 locus (monomorphic in Koreans), together with risk alleles from previously established RA risk loci, exhibited a high correlation of effect sizes between ancestries. Further, we refined the number of SNPs that represent potentially causal variants through a trans-ethnic comparison of densely genotyped SNPs.
This study demonstrates the advantage of dense-mapping and trans-ancestral analysis for identification of potentially causal SNPs. In addition, our findings support the importance of T cells in the pathogenesis and the fact of frequent overlap of risk loci among diverse autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC4467986  PMID: 24532676
Rheumatoid arthritis; Gene polymorphism; Anti-CCP
5.  A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies IL23R as an Inflammatory Bowel Disease Gene 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2006;314(5804):1461-1463.
The inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are common, chronic disorders that cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal bleeding. To identify genetic factors that might contribute to these disorders, we performed a genome-wide association study. We found a highly significant association between Crohn's disease and the IL23R gene on chromosome 1p31, which encodes a subunit of the receptor for the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-23. An uncommon coding variant (rs11209026, c.1142G>A, p.Arg381Gln) confers strong protection against Crohn's disease, and additional noncoding IL23R variants are independently associated. Replication studies confirmed IL23R associations in independent cohorts of patients with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. These results and previous studies on the proinflammatory role of IL-23 prioritize this signaling pathway as a therapeutic target in inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC4410764  PMID: 17068223
6.  TYK2 Protein-Coding Variants Protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis and Autoimmunity, with No Evidence of Major Pleiotropic Effects on Non-Autoimmune Complex Traits 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0122271.
Despite the success of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in detecting a large number of loci for complex phenotypes such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility, the lack of information on the causal genes leaves important challenges to interpret GWAS results in the context of the disease biology. Here, we genetically fine-map the RA risk locus at 19p13 to define causal variants, and explore the pleiotropic effects of these same variants in other complex traits. First, we combined Immunochip dense genotyping (n = 23,092 case/control samples), Exomechip genotyping (n = 18,409 case/control samples) and targeted exon-sequencing (n = 2,236 case/controls samples) to demonstrate that three protein-coding variants in TYK2 (tyrosine kinase 2) independently protect against RA: P1104A (rs34536443, OR = 0.66, P = 2.3x10-21), A928V (rs35018800, OR = 0.53, P = 1.2x10-9), and I684S (rs12720356, OR = 0.86, P = 4.6x10-7). Second, we show that the same three TYK2 variants protect against systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, Pomnibus = 6x10-18), and provide suggestive evidence that two of the TYK2 variants (P1104A and A928V) may also protect against inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; Pomnibus = 0.005). Finally, in a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) assessing >500 phenotypes using electronic medical records (EMR) in >29,000 subjects, we found no convincing evidence for association of P1104A and A928V with complex phenotypes other than autoimmune diseases such as RA, SLE and IBD. Together, our results demonstrate the role of TYK2 in the pathogenesis of RA, SLE and IBD, and provide supporting evidence for TYK2 as a promising drug target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC4388675  PMID: 25849893
7.  Expression of Blimp-1 in Dendritic Cells Modulates the Innate Inflammatory Response in Dextran Sodium Sulfate–Induced Colitis 
Molecular Medicine  2015;20(1):707-719.
A single nucleotide polymorphism of PRDM1, the gene encoding Blimp-1, is strongly associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Here, we demonstrate that Blimp-1 in CD103+ dendritic cells (DCs) critically contributes to the regulation of macrophage homeostasis in the colon. Dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-exposed Blimp-1cko mice with a deletion of Blimp-1 in CD103+ DCs and CD11chi macrophages exhibited severe inflammatory symptoms, pronounced weight loss, high mortality, robust infiltration of neutrophils in epithelial regions of the colon, an increased expression of proinflammatory cytokines and a significant decrease in CD103+ DCs in the colon compared with DSS exposed wild-type (WT) mice. Purified colonic macrophages from Blimp-1cko mice expressed increased levels of matrix metalloproteinase 8, 9 and 12 mRNA. WT macrophages cocultured with colonic DCs but not bone marrow–derived DCs from Blimp-1cko produced increased matrix metalloproteinases in an interleukin (IL)-1β– and IL-6–dependent manner. Treatment of Blimp-1cko mice with anti–IL-1β and anti–IL-6 abrogated the exaggerated clinical response. Overall, these data demonstrate that Blimp-1 expression in DCs can alter an innate inflammatory response by modulating the activation of myeloid cells. This is a novel mechanism of contribution of Blimp-1 for the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases, implicating another therapeutic target for the development of inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC4398669  PMID: 25826676
8.  A genetic study on C5-TRAF1 and progression of joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis 
The severity of joint damage progression in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is heritable. Several genetic variants have been identified, but together explain only part of the total genetic effect. Variants in Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Interleukin-10 (IL-10), C5-TRAF1, and Fc-receptor-like-3 (FCRL3) have been described to associate with radiographic progression, but results of different studies were incongruent. We aimed to clarify associations of these variants with radiographic progression by evaluating six independent cohorts.
In total 5,895 sets of radiographs of 2,493 RA-patients included in six different independent datasets from the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and North-America were studied in relation to rs1800795 (IL-6), rs1800896 (IL-10), rs2900180 (C5-TRAF1) and rs7528684 (FCRL3). Associations were tested in the total RA-populations and in anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA)-positive and ACPA-negative subgroups per cohort, followed by meta-analyses. Furthermore, the associated region C5-TRAF1 was fine-mapped in the ACPA-negative Dutch RA-patients.
No associations were found for rs1800795 (IL-6), rs1800896 (IL-10) and rs7528684 (FCRL3) in the total RA-population and after stratification for ACPA. Rs2900180 in C5-TRAF1 was associated with radiographic progression in the ACPA-negative population (P-value meta-analysis = 5.85 × 10−7); the minor allele was associated with more radiographic progression. Fine-mapping revealed a region of 66Kb that was associated; the lowest P-value was for rs7021880 in TRAF1. The P-value for rs7021880 in meta-analysis was 6.35 × 10−8. Previous studies indicate that the region of rs7021880 was associated with RNA expression of TRAF1 and C5.
Variants in IL-6, IL-10 and FCRL3 were not associated with radiographic progression. Rs2900180 in C5-TRAF1 and linked variants in a 66Kb region were associated with radiographic progression in ACPA-negative RA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0514-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4318544  PMID: 25566937
9.  Relationship between air pollution and positivity of RA-related autoantibodies in individuals without established RA: a report on SERA 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;72(12):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202949.
Studies suggest that respiratory exposures including smoking, proximity to traffic and air pollution might be associated with development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA-related autoantibodies are predictive of the development of RA.
We evaluated the relationship between RA-related autoantibodies and exposure to particulate matter (PM), a measure of air pollution of interest to health, in individuals without RA.
The Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA) is a multicentre study following first-degree relatives (FDRs) of a proband with RA. FDRs are without the 1987 ACR (American College of Rheumatology) classifiable RA at enrolment and are followed for the development of RA-related autoimmunity. RA-related autoantibody outcomes as well as tender and swollen joint outcomes were assessed. Exposure to PM was assigned using ambient air pollution monitoring data and interpolated with inverse distance weighting spatial analyses using Geographic Information Systems. PM exposures were linked to FDR’s residential zip codes.
RA-related autoantibodies as well as tender or swollen joints are not associated with ambient PM concentrations.
While other respiratory exposures may be associated with increased risk of RA, our data suggest that ambient PM is not associated with autoantibodies and joint signs among individuals without RA, but at increased risk of developing RA.
PMCID: PMC3818364  PMID: 23572338
10.  Genome-wide Association Study of Dermatomyositis Reveals Genetic Overlap with other Autoimmune Disorders 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(12):3239-3247.
To identify new genetic associations with juvenile and adult dermatomyositis (DM).
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of adult and juvenile DM patients of European ancestry (n = 1178) and controls (n = 4724). To assess genetic overlap with other autoimmune disorders, we examined whether 141 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) outside the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus, and previously associated with autoimmune diseases, predispose to DM.
Compared to controls, patients with DM had a strong signal in the MHC region consisting of GWAS-level significance (P < 5x10−8) at 80 genotyped SNPs. An analysis of 141 non-MHC SNPs previously associated with autoimmune diseases showed that three SNPs linked with three genes were associated with DM, with a false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05. These genes were phospholipase C like 1 (PLCL1, rs6738825, FDR=0.00089), B lymphoid tyrosine kinase (BLK, rs2736340, FDR=0.00031), and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 21 (CCL21, rs951005, FDR=0.0076). None of these genes was previously reported to be associated with DM.
Our findings confirm the MHC as the major genetic region associated with DM and indicate that DM shares non-MHC genetic features with other autoimmune diseases, suggesting the presence of additional novel risk loci. This first identification of autoimmune disease genetic predispositions shared with DM may lead to enhanced understanding of pathogenesis and novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC3934004  PMID: 23983088
dermatomyositis; adult; juvenile; shared autoimmunity genes
11.  Genome-wide association study meta-analysis identifies seven new rheumatoid arthritis risk loci 
Nature genetics  2010;42(6):508-514.
To identify novel genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis of 5,539 autoantibody positive RA cases and 20,169 controls of European descent, followed by replication in an independent set of 6,768 RA cases and 8,806 controls. Of 34 SNPs selected for replication, 7 novel RA risk alleles were identified at genome-wide significance (P<5×10−8) in analysis of all 41,282 samples. The associated SNPs are near genes of known immune function, including IL6ST, SPRED2, RBPJ, CCR6, IRF5, and PXK. We also refined the risk alleles at two established RA risk loci (IL2RA and CCL21) and confirmed the association at AFF3. These new associations bring the total number of confirmed RA risk loci to 31 among individuals of European ancestry. An additional 11 SNPs replicated at P<0.05, many of which are validated autoimmune risk alleles, suggesting that most represent bona fide RA risk alleles.
PMCID: PMC4243840  PMID: 20453842
12.  Association of a Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism in CD40 With the Rate of Joint Destruction in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(8):2242-2247.
The severity of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is highly variable from patient to patient and is influenced by genetic factors. Genome-wide association studies have enormously boosted the field of the genetics of RA susceptibility, but risk loci for RA severity remain poorly defined. A recent meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identified 6 genetic regions for susceptibility to autoantibody-positive RA: CD40, KIF5A/PIP4K2C, CDK6, CCL21, PRKCQ, and MMEL1/TNFRSF14. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether these newly described genetic regions are associated with the rate of joint destruction.
RA patients enrolled in the Leiden Early Arthritis Clinic were studied (n = 563). Yearly radiographs were scored using the Sharp/van der Heijde method (median followup 5 years; maximum followup 9 years). The rate of joint destruction between genotype groups was compared using a linear mixed model, correcting for age, sex, and treatment strategies. A total of 393 anti–citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA)–positive RA patients from the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium (NARAC) who had radiographic data available were used for the replication study.
The TT and CC/CG genotypes of 2 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, rs4810485 (CD40) and rs42041 (CDK6), respectively, were associated with a higher rate of joint destruction in ACPA-positive RA patients (P = 0.003 and P = 0.012, respectively), with rs4810485 being significant after Bonferroni correction for multiple testing. The association of the CD40 minor allele with the rate of radiographic progression was replicated in the NARAC cohort (P = 0.021).
A polymorphism in the CD40 locus is associated with the rate of joint destruction in patients with ACPA-positive RA. Our findings provide one of the first non–HLA-related genetic severity factors that has been replicated.
PMCID: PMC3121053  PMID: 19644859
13.  Genome-wide association analysis of anti-TNF drug response in rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(8):1375-1381.
Treatment strategies blocking tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) have proven very successful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, a significant subset of patients does not respond for unknown reasons. Currently there are no means of identifying these patients prior to treatment. This study was aimed at identifying genetic factors predicting anti-TNF treatment outcome in patient with RA using a genome-wide association approach.
We conducted a multi-stage, genome-wide association study with a primary analysis of 2,557,253 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 882 RA patients receiving anti-TNF therapy included through the Dutch Rheumatoid Arthritis Monitoring (DREAM) registry and the database of Apotheekzorg. Linear regression analysis of changes in the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints after 14 weeks of treatment was performed using an additive model. Markers with a p<10−3 were selected for replication in 1,821 RA patients from three independent cohorts. Pathway analysis including all SNPs with a p-value < 10−3 was performed using Ingenuity.
Seven hundred seventy two markers demonstrated evidence of association with treatment outcome in the initial stage. Eight genetic loci showed improved p-value in the overall meta-analysis compared to the first stage, three of which (rs1568885, rs1813443 and rs4411591) showed directional consistency over all four studied cohorts. We were unable to replicate markers previously reported to be associated with anti-TNF outcome. Network analysis indicated strong involvement of biological processes underlying inflammatory response and cell morphology.
Using a multi-stage strategy, we have identified 8 genetic loci associated with response to anti-TNF treatment. Further studies are required to validate these findings in additional patient collections.
PMCID: PMC4169706  PMID: 23233654
anti-TNF; gene polymorphism; pharmacogenetics; rheumatoid arthritis; genome-wide association study
14.  Common Variants near the Melanocortin 4 Receptor Gene are Associated with Severe Antipsychotic Drug-induced Weight Gain 
Archives of general psychiatry  2012;69(9):904-912.
Second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) are increasingly used in the treatment of many psychotic and non-psychotic disorders. Unfortunately, SGAs are often associated with substantial weight gain, with no means to predict which patients are at greatest risk.
To detect alleles of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain.
Pharmacogenetic association study
Discovery cohort was collected at a U.S. general psychiatric hospital. Three additional cohorts were collected from psychiatric hospitals in the U.S. and Germany, and from a European antipsychotic drug trial.
The discovery cohort was comprised of 139 pediatric patients undergoing first exposure to SGA treatment. An additional three cohorts were comprised of 73, 40 and 92 subjects.
Patients in the discovery cohort were treated with SGAs for twelve weeks. Additional cohorts were treated for six and twelve weeks.
Main outcome measure
We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) assessing weight gain associated with twelve weeks of SGA treatment in patients undergoing first exposure to antipsychotic treatment. We next genotyped three independent cohorts of subjects assessed for antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain.
GWAS yielded twenty SNPs at a single locus exceeding a statistical threshold of p < 10−5. This locus, near the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) gene, overlaps a region previously identified by large-scale GWAS of obesity in the general population. Effects were recessive, with minor allele homozygotes gaining extreme amounts of weight over the 12-week trial. These results were replicated in three additional cohorts with SNP rs489693 demonstrating consistent recessive effects; meta analysis revealed a genome-wide significant effect (p=5.59×10−12). Moreover, we observed consistent effects on related metabolic indices, including triglycerides, leptin, insulin, and HOMA-IR in our discovery cohort.
These data implicate the MC4R locus in extreme SGA-induced weight gain and related metabolic disturbances. A priori identification of high-risk subjects could lead to alternative treatment strategies in this population.
PMCID: PMC4166499  PMID: 22566560
15.  The Influence of Polygenic Risk Scores on Heritability of Anti-CCP Level in RA 
Genes and immunity  2014;15(2):107-114.
To study genetic factors that influence quantitative anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibody levels in RA patients.
We carried out a genome wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis using 1,975 anti-CCP+ RA patients from 3 large cohorts, the Brigham Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study (BRASS), North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium (NARAC), and the Epidemiological Investigation of RA (EIRA). We also carried out a genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) to estimate the heritability of anti-CCP levels.
GWAS-meta analysis showed that anti-CCP levels were most strongly associated with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region with a p-value of 2×10−11 for rs1980493. There were 112 SNPs in this region that exceeded the genome-wide significance threshold of 5×10−8, and all were in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with the HLA- DRB1*03 allele with LD r2 in the range of 0.25-0.88. Suggestive novel associations outside of the HLA region were also observed for rs8063248 (near the GP2 gene) with a p-value of 3×10−7. None of the known RA risk alleles (~52 loci) were associated with anti-CCP level. Heritability analysis estimated that 44% of anti-CCP variation was attributable to genetic factors captured by GWAS variants.
Anti-CCP level is a heritable trait. HLA-DR3 and GP2 are associated with lower anti-CCP levels.
PMCID: PMC3948067  PMID: 24385024
RA; GWAS; anti-CCP; heritability
16.  Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide Assays Differ in Subjects at Elevated Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Subjects with Established Disease 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(9):2243-2252.
To compare commonly-available tests for antibodies to citrullinated protein antigens (ACPAs) for diagnostic accuracy and assay agreement in established rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and subjects at elevated risk for RA.
ELISA testing for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies was performed using CCP2 (Axis-Shield) and CCP3.1 (IgA/IgG INOVA) in the following subjects: 1) probands with established RA (N=340) from the Studies of the Etiology of RA (SERA), 2) first degree relatives (FDRs) without RA (family members of SERA RA probands; N=681), 3) Department of Defense Serum Repository (DoDSR) RA cases with pre-diagnosis samples (N=83; 47/83 also had post-diagnosis samples), and 4) blood-donor and DoDSR controls (N=283).
In established RA, CCP2 was more specific (99.2% vs. 93.1%, p<0.01), but less sensitive (58.7% vs. 67.4%, p=0.01) than CCP3.1, with specificity of CCP3.1 increasing to 97.2% if levels ≥3 times the standard cut-off level were considered. In all subjects, at standard cut-off levels, CCP3.1 positivity was more prevalent. In DoDSR cases, CCP2 was more specific than CCP3.1 for a future diagnosis of RA, and higher CCP levels trended towards greater specificity for disease onset within 2 years. At standard cut-off levels, assay agreement was good in established RA (kappa=0.76), but poor in FDRs without inflammatory arthritis (kappa=0.25).
Anti-CCP assays differ to an extent that may be meaningful in diagnosing RA in patients with inflammatory arthritis, and in evaluating the natural history of RA development in subjects at-risk for future RA. Mechanisms underlying these differences in test performance need further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3776020  PMID: 23686569
Rheumatoid arthritis; autoantibodies; CCP; ACPA; preclinical
17.  Genetics of rheumatoid arthritis contributes to biology and drug discovery 
Okada, Yukinori | Wu, Di | Trynka, Gosia | Raj, Towfique | Terao, Chikashi | Ikari, Katsunori | Kochi, Yuta | Ohmura, Koichiro | Suzuki, Akari | Yoshida, Shinji | Graham, Robert R. | Manoharan, Arun | Ortmann, Ward | Bhangale, Tushar | Denny, Joshua C. | Carroll, Robert J. | Eyler, Anne E. | Greenberg, Jeffrey D. | Kremer, Joel M. | Pappas, Dimitrios A. | Jiang, Lei | Yin, Jian | Ye, Lingying | Su, Ding-Feng | Yang, Jian | Xie, Gang | Keystone, Ed | Westra, Harm-Jan | Esko, Tõnu | Metspalu, Andres | Zhou, Xuezhong | Gupta, Namrata | Mirel, Daniel | Stahl, Eli A. | Diogo, Dorothée | Cui, Jing | Liao, Katherine | Guo, Michael H. | Myouzen, Keiko | Kawaguchi, Takahisa | Coenen, Marieke J.H. | van Riel, Piet L.C.M. | van de Laar, Mart A.F.J. | Guchelaar, Henk-Jan | Huizinga, Tom W.J. | Dieudé, Philippe | Mariette, Xavier | Bridges, S. Louis | Zhernakova, Alexandra | Toes, Rene E.M. | Tak, Paul P. | Miceli-Richard, Corinne | Bang, So-Young | Lee, Hye-Soon | Martin, Javier | Gonzalez-Gay, Miguel A. | Rodriguez-Rodriguez, Luis | Rantapää-Dahlqvist, Solbritt | Ärlestig, Lisbeth | Choi, Hyon K. | Kamatani, Yoichiro | Galan, Pilar | Lathrop, Mark | Eyre, Steve | Bowes, John | Barton, Anne | de Vries, Niek | Moreland, Larry W. | Criswell, Lindsey A. | Karlson, Elizabeth W. | Taniguchi, Atsuo | Yamada, Ryo | Kubo, Michiaki | Liu, Jun S. | Bae, Sang-Cheol | Worthington, Jane | Padyukov, Leonid | Klareskog, Lars | Gregersen, Peter K. | Raychaudhuri, Soumya | Stranger, Barbara E. | De Jager, Philip L. | Franke, Lude | Visscher, Peter M. | Brown, Matthew A. | Yamanaka, Hisashi | Mimori, Tsuneyo | Takahashi, Atsushi | Xu, Huji | Behrens, Timothy W. | Siminovitch, Katherine A. | Momohara, Shigeki | Matsuda, Fumihiko | Yamamoto, Kazuhiko | Plenge, Robert M.
Nature  2013;506(7488):376-381.
A major challenge in human genetics is to devise a systematic strategy to integrate disease-associated variants with diverse genomic and biological datasets to provide insight into disease pathogenesis and guide drug discovery for complex traits such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)1. Here, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis in a total of >100,000 subjects of European and Asian ancestries (29,880 RA cases and 73,758 controls), by evaluating ~10 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We discovered 42 novel RA risk loci at a genome-wide level of significance, bringing the total to 1012–4. We devised an in-silico pipeline using established bioinformatics methods based on functional annotation5, cis-acting expression quantitative trait loci (cis-eQTL)6, and pathway analyses7–9 – as well as novel methods based on genetic overlap with human primary immunodeficiency (PID), hematological cancer somatic mutations and knock-out mouse phenotypes – to identify 98 biological candidate genes at these 101 risk loci. We demonstrate that these genes are the targets of approved therapies for RA, and further suggest that drugs approved for other indications may be repurposed for the treatment of RA. Together, this comprehensive genetic study sheds light on fundamental genes, pathways and cell types that contribute to RA pathogenesis, and provides empirical evidence that the genetics of RA can provide important information for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3944098  PMID: 24390342
18.  Immunochip Identifies Novel, and Replicates Known, Genetic Risk Loci for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Black South Africans 
Molecular Medicine  2014;20(1):341-349.
The aim of this study was to identify genetic variants associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk in black South Africans. Black South African RA patients (n = 263) were compared with healthy controls (n = 374). Genotyping was performed using the Immunochip, and four-digit high-resolution human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing was performed by DNA sequencing of exon 2. Standard quality control measures were implemented on the data. The strongest associations were in the intergenic region between the HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQA1 loci. After conditioning on HLA-DRB1 alleles, the effect in the rest of the extended major histocompatibility (MHC) diminished. Non-HLA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the intergenic regions LOC389203|RBPJ, LOC100131131|IL1R1, KIAA1919|REV3L, LOC643749|TRAF3IP2, and SNPs in the intron and untranslated regions (UTR) of IRF1 and the intronic region of ICOS and KIAA1542 showed association with RA (p < 5 × 10−5). Of the SNPs previously associated with RA in Caucasians, one SNP, rs874040, locating to the intergenic region LOC389203|RBPJ was replicated in this study. None of the variants in the PTPN22 gene was significantly associated. The seropositive subgroups showed similar results to the overall cohort. The effects observed across the HLA region are most likely due to HLA-DRB1, and secondary effects in the extended MHC cannot be detected. Seven non-HLA loci are associated with RA in black South Africans. Similar to Caucasians, the intergenic region between LOC38920 and RBPJ is associated with RA in this population. The strong association of the R620W variant of the PTPN22 gene with RA in Caucasians was not replicated since this variant was monomorphic in our study, but other SNP variants of the PTPN22 gene were also not associated with RA in black South Africans, suggesting that this locus does not play a major role in RA in this population.
PMCID: PMC4153842  PMID: 25014791
19.  Relatives Without Rheumatoid Arthritis Show Reactivity to Anti-Citrullinated Protein/Peptide Antibodies Which are Associated with Arthritis-Related Traits: Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(8):1995-2004.
Examine anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) reactivity and determine associations between ACPA and other rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related autoantibodies and clinically-assessed swollen or tender joints in first-degree relatives (FDRs) without 1987 and 2010 American College of Rheumatology classified RA.
A bead-based assay measured 16 separate ACPA in sera from 111 FDRs (Ab+) who were positive on at least one visit for any of 5 RA-related autoantibodies (RF, anti-CCP2, and RF isotypes), and 99 FDRs (Ab−) who were never autoantibody positive. Cut-offs for positivity for each ACPA were determined using receiver operating characteristic curves of data from 200 RA cases and 98 blood-bank controls, wherein positivity for ≥ 9 ACPA had 92% specificity and 62% sensitivity for RA. In FDRs, we assessed ACPA reactivity and examined associations between ACPA (number positive and positivity for ≥ 9 ACPA) and RA-related characteristics.
Four of 7 anti-CCP2 positive and 8% of anti-CCP2 negative FDRs were positive for ≥ 9 ACPA. After adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity and pack-years of smoking, increasing number of ACPA was directly associated with having ≥ 1 tender joint on exam (OR=1.18, 95% CI 1.04–1.34), with the greatest risk seen in FDRs positive for ≥ 9 ACPA (OR=5.00, 95% CI 1.37–18.18).
RA-free FDRs demonstrate reactivity to multiple ACPA, even in those negative for rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP2, and increasing ACPA may be associated with signs of joint inflammation. Prospective evaluation of the relationship between these findings and progression of classifiable RA is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3729718  PMID: 23754702
pre-clinical RA; autoantibodies; ACPA; rheumatoid arthritis
22.  STAT4: Genetics, Mechanisms, and Implications for Autoimmunity Review for Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 
Recent advances in genetics and technology have led to breakthroughs in understanding the genes that predispose individuals to autoimmune diseases. A common haplotype of the signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) gene has been shown to be associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and primary Sjögren’s syndrome. STAT4 is a transcription factor that transduces interleukin-12, interleukin-23, and type I interferon cytokine signals in T cells and monocytes, leading to T-helper type 1 and T-helper type 17 differentiation, monocyte activation, and production of interferon-γ. Although the evidence for this association is very strong and well replicated, the exact mechanism by which polymorphisms in this gene lead to disease remains unknown. In concert with the identification of other disease-associated loci, elucidating how the variant form of STAT4 modulates immune function should lead to an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2562257  PMID: 18682104
23.  Multiple cytokines and chemokines are associated with rheumatoid arthritis-related autoimmunity in first-degree relatives without rheumatoid arthritis: Studies of the Aetiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA) 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(6):901-907.
We investigated whether rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related autoantibodies were associated with systemic inflammation in a prospective cohort of first-degree relatives (FDRs) of RA probands, a population without RA but at increased risk for its future development.
We studied 44 autoantibody positive FDRs, of whom 29 were rheumatoid factor (RF) positive, 25 were positive for the high risk autoantibody profile (HRP), that is, positive for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide and/or for at least two RF IgM, IgG or IgA isotypes, and nine FDRs who were positive for both; and 62 FDRs who were never autoantibody positive. Twenty-five cytokines/chemokines were measured using a bead-based assay in serum. As a comprehensive measure of inflammation, we calculated a Cytokine Score by summing all cytokine/chemokine levels, weighted by their regression coefficients for RA-autoantibody association. We compared C-reactive protein, individual cytokines/chemokines and Cytokine Score to the outcomes: positivity for RF and for the HRP using logistic regression.
Adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity and ever smoking, the Cytokine Score and levels of IL-6 and IL-9 were associated with both RF and HRP. IL-2, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and interferon (IFN)-γ were associated with HRP only. Associations between the Cytokine Score and RF and HRP positivity were replicated in an independent military personnel cohort.
In first-degree relatives of patients with RA, RA-related autoimmunity is associated with inflammation, as evidenced by associations with multiple cytokines and chemokines.
PMCID: PMC3726193  PMID: 22915618
24.  Genome-Wide Association Scan Identifies Candidate Polymorphisms Associated with Differential Response to Anti-TNF Treatment in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Molecular Medicine  2008;14(9-10):575-581.
The prediction of response (or non-response) to anti-TNF treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a pressing clinical problem. We conducted a genome-wide association study using the Illumina HapMap300 SNP chip on 89 RA patients prospectively followed after beginning anti-TNF therapy as part of Autoimmune Biomarkers Collaborative Network (ABCoN [Autoimmune Bio-markers Collaborative Network]) patient cohort. Response to therapy was determined by the change in Disease Activity Score (DAS28) observed after 14 wks. We used a two-part analysis that treated the change in DAS28 as a continuous trait and then incorporated it into a dichotomous trait of “good responder” and “nonresponder” by European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) criteria. We corrected for multiple tests by permutation, and adjusted for potential population stratification using EIGENSTRAT. Multiple single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers showed significant associations near or within loci including: the v-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homolog B (MAFB) gene on chromosome 20; the type I interferon gene IFNk on chromosome 9; and in a locus on chromosome 7 that includes the paraoxonase I (PON1) gene. An SNP in the IL10 promoter (rs1800896) that was previously reported as associated with anti-TNF response was weakly associated with response in this cohort. Replications of these results in independent and larger data sets clearly are required. We provide a reference list of candidate SNPs (P < 0.01) that can be investigated in future pharmacogenomic studies.
PMCID: PMC2443997  PMID: 18615156
25.  Several Regions in the Major Histocompatibility Complex Confer Risk for Anti-CCP-Antibody Positive Rheumatoid Arthritis, Independent of the DRB1 Locus 
Molecular Medicine  2008;14(5-6):293-300.
Recent evidence suggests that additional risk loci for RA are present in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), independent of the class II HLA-DRB1 locus. We have now tested a total of 1,769 SNPs across 7.5Mb of the MHC located from 6p22.2 (26.03 Mb) to 6p21.32 (33.59 Mb) derived from the Illumina 550K Beadchip (Illumina, San Diego, CA, USA). For an initial analysis in the whole dataset (869 RA CCP + cases, 1,193 controls), the strongest association signal was observed in markers near the HLA-DRB1 locus, with additional evidence for association extending out into the Class I HLA region. To avoid confounding that may arise due to linkage disequilibrium with DRB1 alleles, we analyzed a subset of the data by matching cases and controls by DRB1 genotype (both alleles matched 1:1), yielding a set of 372 cases with 372 controls. This analysis revealed the presence of at least two regions of association with RA in the Class I region, independent of DRB1 genotype. SNP alleles found on the conserved A1-B8-DR3 (8.1) haplotype show the strongest evidence of positive association (P ~ 0.00005) clustered in the region around the HLA-C locus. In addition, we identified risk alleles that are not present on the 8.1 haplotype, with maximal association signals (P ~ 0.001–0.0027) located near the ZNF311 locus. This latter association is enriched in DRB1*0404 individuals. Finally, several additional association signals were found in the extreme centromeric portion of the MHC, in regions containing the DOB1, TAP2, DPB1, and COL11A2 genes. These data emphasize that further analysis of the MHC is likely to reveal genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis that are independent of the DRB1 shared epitope alleles.
PMCID: PMC2255558  PMID: 18309376

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