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1.  Rate and Predictors of Mucosal Healing in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treated with Anti-TNF-Alpha Antibodies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99293.
Mucosal healing (MH) is an important treatment goal in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but factors predicting MH under medical therapy are largely unknown. In this study, we aimed to characterize predictive factors for MH in anti-TNF-alpha antibody-treated IBD patients.
We retrospectively analyzed 248 IBD patients (61.3% CD, 38.7% UC) treated with anti-TNF-alpha antibodies (infliximab and/or adalimumab) for MH, defined as macroscopic absence of inflammatory lesions (Mayo endoscopy score 0 or SES-CD score 0) in colonoscopies which were analyzed before and after initiation of an anti-TNF-alpha antibody treatment.
In patients treated with only one anti-TNF-alpha antibody (“TNF1 group”, n = 202), 56 patients (27.7%) achieved complete MH at follow-up colonoscopy (median overall follow-up time: 63 months). In a second cohort (n = 46), which comprised patients who were consecutively treated with two anti-TNF-alpha antibodies (“TNF2 group”), 13 patients (28.3%) achieved complete MH (median overall follow-up time: 64.5 months). Compared to patients without MH, CRP values at follow-up colonoscopy were significantly lower in patients with MH (TNF1 group: p = 8.35×10−5; TNF2 group: p = 0.002). Multivariate analyses confirmed CRP at follow-up colonoscopy as predictor for MH in the TNF1 group (p = 0.012). Overall need for surgery was lower in patients with MH (TNF1 group: p = 0.01; TNF2 group: p = 0.03).
We identified low serum CRP level at follow-up colonoscopy as predictor for MH, while MH was an excellent negative predictor for the need for surgery.
PMCID: PMC4059645  PMID: 24932476
2.  Extracorporeal Photopheresis (ECP) in Patients with Steroid-Dependent Crohn’s Disease: An Open-Label, Multi-Center, Prospective Trial 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2013;19(2):293-300.
ECP involves ex vivo leukocyte treatment with methoxsalen and UVA light to generate a tolerogenic response. A previous trial demonstrated that ECP permits corticosteroid withdrawal in steroid-dependent Crohn’s disease (CD) patients who were in clinical remission. We studied the effect of ECP on steroid withdrawal in steroid-dependent CD.
Patients with CD for ≥6 months, in remission at baseline while on steroids, but who had failed at ≥1 steroid withdrawal were included. Patients received 2 ECP treatments every 2 weeks for the 24-week steroid tapering period and underwent steroid-tapering. Patients completing steroid tapering could receive maintenance ECP (2 treatments/week) every month for 24 weeks.
31 patients (CDAI 91; IBDQ 172.5) were enrolled (baseline corticosteroid dose − 20 mg/day). 65% were refractory to/intolerant of anti-TNF agents or immunosuppressants. After 24 weeks of ECP, 7 of 31 (22.6%) patients discontinued steroids while maintaining a CDAI of < 150. At Week 24, the steroid dose for the remaining patients on corticosteroids was 10 mg (p < 0.003 vs. baseline) with a CDAI of 110 and an IBDQ of 179. Following maintenance treatment, 3 patients remained in steroid-free remission. The 10 patients in the study and receiving ECP at Week 48 had a steroid dose of 3.5 mg with a CDAI of 40 and an IBDQ of 188.
ECP permitted discontinuation or reduction of steroids in a population of refractory steroid-dependent CD patients. ECP may be useful in permitting steroid withdrawal in selected steroid-dependent CD patients. Ideally, these results need to be confirmed in a “sham-controlled” clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC3437245  PMID: 22573600
Extracorporeal Photopheresis; Crohn’s Disease; Steroid Dependent
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  rs1004819 Is the Main Disease-Associated IL23R Variant in German Crohn's Disease Patients: Combined Analysis of IL23R, CARD15, and OCTN1/2 Variants 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e819.
The IL23R gene has been identified as a susceptibility gene for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the North American population. The aim of our study was to test this association in a large German IBD cohort and to elucidate potential interactions with other IBD genes as well as phenotypic consequences of IL23R variants.
Genomic DNA from 2670 Caucasian individuals including 833 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), 456 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 1381 healthy unrelated controls was analyzed for 10 IL23R SNPs. Genotyping included the NOD2 variants p.Arg702Trp, p.Gly908Arg, and p.Leu1007fsX1008 and polymorphisms in SLC22A4/OCTN1 (1672 C→T) and SLC22A5/OCTN2 (–207 G→C).
All IL23R gene variants analyzed displayed highly significant associations with CD. The strongest association was found for the SNP rs1004819 [P = 1.92×10−11; OR 1.56; 95 % CI (1.37–1.78)]. 93.2% of the rs1004819 TT homozygous carriers as compared to 78% of CC wildtype carriers had ileal involvement [P = 0.004; OR 4.24; CI (1.46–12.34)]. The coding SNP rs11209026 (p.Arg381Gln) was protective for CD [P = 8.04×10−8; OR 0.43; CI (0.31–0.59)]. Similar, but weaker associations were found in UC. There was no evidence for epistasis between the IL23R gene and the CD susceptibility genes CARD15 and SLC22A4/5.
IL23R is an IBD susceptibility gene, but has no epistatic interaction with CARD15 and SLC22A4/5. rs1004819 is the major IL23R variant associated with CD in the German population, while the p.Arg381Gln IL23R variant is a protective marker for CD and UC.
PMCID: PMC1950565  PMID: 17786191

Results 1-9 (9)