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1.  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
2.  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
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.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Interleukin 31 mediates MAP kinase and STAT1/3 activation in intestinal epithelial cells and its expression is upregulated in inflammatory bowel disease 
Gut  2007;56(9):1257-1265.
Interleukin 31 (IL31), primarily expressed in activated lymphocytes, signals through a heterodimeric receptor complex consisting of the IL31 receptor alpha (IL31Rα) and the oncostatin M receptor (OSMR). The aim of this study was to analyse IL31 receptor expression, signal transduction, and specific biological functions of this cytokine system in intestinal inflammation.
Expression studies were performed by RT‐PCR, quantitative PCR, western blotting, and immunohistochemistry. Signal transduction was analysed by western blotting. Cell proliferation was measured by MTS assays, cell migration by restitution assays.
Colorectal cancer derived intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) lines express both IL31 receptor subunits, while their expression in unstimulated primary murine IEC was low. LPS and the proinflammatory cytokines TNF‐α, IL1β, IFN‐γ, and sodium butyrate stimulation increased IL31, IL31Rα, and OSMR mRNA expression, while IL31 itself enhanced IL8 expression in IEC. IL31 mediates ERK‐1/2, Akt, STAT1, and STAT3 activation in IEC resulting in enhanced IEC migration. However, at low cell density, IL31 had significant antiproliferative capacities (p<0.005). IL31 mRNA expression was not increased in the TNFΔARE mouse model of ileitis but in inflamed colonic lesions compared to non‐inflamed tissue in patients with Crohn's disease (CD; average 2.4‐fold increase) and in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC; average 2.6‐fold increase) and correlated with the IL‐8 expression in these lesions (r = 0.564 for CD; r = 0.650 for UC; total number of biopsies analysed: n = 88).
IEC express the functional IL31 receptor complex. IL31 modulates cell proliferation and migration suggesting a role in the regulation of intestinal barrier function particularly in intestinal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC1954980  PMID: 17449633
interleukin; Crohn's disease; ulcerative colitis; inflammatory bowel disease; intestinal epithelial cell
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Role of the intracellular receptor domain of gp130 (exon 17) in human inflammatory bowel disease 
AIM: To study the role of the intracellular receptor domain of gp130 in human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
METHODS: We amplified and sequenced the complete exon 17 of the human gp130 gene in 146 patients with IBD. According to clinical and histopathological signs, the 146 patients with IBD were classified as having Crohn’s disease (n = 73) or ulcerative colitis (n = 63), or as indeterminate status (n = 10).
RESULTS: No mutations in exon 17 of the gp130 gene could be detected in any of the 146 patients with IBD examined.
CONCLUSION: There is no evidence that mutations in exon 17 of the gp130 gene are involved in the pathogenesis of human IBD.
PMCID: PMC4250713  PMID: 15754404
Exon 17; Inflammatory bowel disease; gp130 gene

Results 1-12 (12)