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1.  Resequencing the susceptibility gene, ITGAM, identifies two functionally deleterious rare variants in systemic lupus erythematosus cases 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(3):R114.
The majority of the genetic variance of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) remains unexplained by the common disease-common variant hypothesis. Rare variants, which are not detectable by genome-wide association studies because of their low frequencies, are predicted to explain part of this ”missing heritability.” However, recent studies identifying rare variants within known disease-susceptibility loci have failed to show genetic associations because of their extremely low frequencies, leading to the questioning of the contribution of rare variants to disease susceptibility. A common (minor allele frequency = 17.4% in cases) nonsynonymous coding variant rs1143679 (R77H) in ITGAM (CD11b), which forms half of the heterodimeric integrin receptor, complement receptor 3 (CR3), is robustly associated with SLE and has been shown to impair CR3-mediated phagocytosis.
We resequenced ITGAM in 73 SLE cases and identified two previously unidentified, case-specific nonsynonymous variants, F941V and G1145S. Both variants were genotyped in 2,107 and 949 additional SLE cases, respectively, to estimate their frequencies in a disease population. An in vitro model was used to assess the impact of F941V and G1145S, together with two nonsynonymous ITGAM polymorphisms, A858V (rs1143683) and M441T (rs11861251), on CR3-mediated phagocytosis. A paired two-tailed t test was used to compare the phagocytic capabilities of each variant with that of wild-type CR3.
Both rare variants, F941V and G1145S, significantly impair CR3-mediated phagocytosis in an in vitro model (61% reduction, P = 0.006; 26% reduction, P = 0.0232). However, neither of the common variants, M441T and A858V, had an effect on phagocytosis. Neither rare variant was observed again in the genotyping of additional SLE cases, suggesting that there frequencies are extremely low.
Our results add further evidence to the functional importance of ITGAM in SLE pathogenesis through impaired phagocytosis. Additionally, this study provides a new example of the identification of rare variants in common-allele-associated loci, which, because of their extremely low frequencies, are not statistically associated. However, the demonstration of their functional effects adds support to their contribution to disease risk, and questions the current notion of dismissing the contribution of very rare variants on purely statistical analyses.
PMCID: PMC4060450  PMID: 24886912
2.  Evidence for both copy number and allelic (NA1/NA2) risk at the FCGR3B locus in systemic lupus erythematosus 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2010;18(9):1027-1031.
The Fcγ-receptor locus on chromosome 1q23 shows copy-number variation (CNV), and it has previously been shown that individuals with reduced numbers of copies of the Fcγ-receptor-IIIB gene (FCGR3B) have an increased risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It is not understood whether the association arises from FCGR3B (CD16b) itself, is observed because of linkage disequilibrium with actual causal alleles and/or is an effect of CNV on flanking FCGR genes. Thus, we extended this previous work by genotyping the FCGR3B alleles NA1/NA2 and re-assaying CNV using a paralogue ratio test assay in a family study (365 families). We have developed a novel case/pseudo-control approach to analyse family data, as the phase of copy number (CN) is not known in parents and cannot always be inferred in offspring. The results, obtained by fitting logistic regression models, confirm the association of low CN of FCGR3B with SLE (P=0.04). The risk conferred by low copies (<2) was contingent on FCGR3B allotype, being greater for deletion of NA1 than the for lower-affinity NA2. The simpler model with just CN was rejected in favour of the biallelic-CN model (P=0.03). We observed a correlation (R2=0.75, P<0.0001) between FCGR3B CNV and neutrophil expression in both healthy controls and patients with SLE. Our results suggest that one mechanism by which CNV at this locus confers disease risk is directly as a result of reduced FcγRIIIb function, either because of reduced expression (related to CNV) or because of reduced affinity for its ligand (NA1/NA2 allotype).
PMCID: PMC2987408  PMID: 20442749
FCGR3B; NA1/NA2; genetics; systemic lupus erythematosus; CNV
3.  FCGR3B copy number variation is associated with susceptibility to systemic, but not organ-specific, autoimmunity 
Nature genetics  2007;39(6):721-723.
Naturally occurring variation in gene copy number is increasingly recognized as a heritable source of susceptibility to genetically complex diseases. Here we report strong association between FCGR3B copy number and risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (P = 2.7 × 10-8), microscopic polyangiitis (P = 2.9 × 10-4) and Wegener’s granulomatosis in two independent cohorts from the UK (P = 3 × 10-3) and France (P = 1.1 × 10-4). We did not observe this association in the organ-specific Graves’ disease or Addison’s disease. Our findings suggest that low FCGR3B copy number, and in particular complete FCGR3B deficiency, has a key role in the development of systemic autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2742197  PMID: 17529978
4.  Association of Genetic Variants in Complement Factor H and Factor H-Related Genes with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Susceptibility 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(5):e1002079.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex polygenic autoimmune disease, is associated with increased complement activation. Variants of genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) within the chromosome 1q32 locus linked to SLE, have been associated with multiple human diseases and may contribute to dysregulated complement activation predisposing to SLE. We assessed 60 SNPs covering the CFH-CFHRs region for association with SLE in 15,864 case-control subjects derived from four ethnic groups. Significant allelic associations with SLE were detected in European Americans (EA) and African Americans (AA), which could be attributed to an intronic CFH SNP (rs6677604, in intron 11, Pmeta = 6.6×10−8, OR = 1.18) and an intergenic SNP between CFHR1 and CFHR4 (rs16840639, Pmeta = 2.9×10−7, OR = 1.17) rather than to previously identified disease-associated CFH exonic SNPs, including I62V, Y402H, A474A, and D936E. In addition, allelic association of rs6677604 with SLE was subsequently confirmed in Asians (AS). Haplotype analysis revealed that the underlying causal variant, tagged by rs6677604 and rs16840639, was localized to a ∼146 kb block extending from intron 9 of CFH to downstream of CFHR1. Within this block, the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 (CFHR3-1Δ), a likely causal variant measured using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, was tagged by rs6677604 in EA and AS and rs16840639 in AA, respectively. Deduced from genotypic associations of tag SNPs in EA, AA, and AS, homozygous deletion of CFHR3-1Δ (Pmeta = 3.2×10−7, OR = 1.47) conferred a higher risk of SLE than heterozygous deletion (Pmeta = 3.5×10−4, OR = 1.14). These results suggested that the CFHR3-1Δ deletion within the SLE-associated block, but not the previously described exonic SNPs of CFH, might contribute to the development of SLE in EA, AA, and AS, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease, associated with increased complement activation. Previous studies have provided evidence for the presence of SLE susceptibility gene(s) in the chromosome 1q31-32 locus. Within 1q32, genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) may contribute to the development of SLE, because genetic variants of these genes impair complement regulation and predispose to various human diseases. In this study, we tested association of genetic variants in the region containing CFH and CFHRs with SLE. We identified genetic variants predisposing to SLE in European American, African American, and Asian populations, which might be attributed to the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 genes but not previously identified disease-associated exonic variants of CFH. This study provides the first evidence for consistent association between CFH/CFHRs and SLE across multi-ancestral SLE datasets, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3102741  PMID: 21637784
5.  Genetic associations of leptin-related polymorphisms with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2015;161(2):157-162.
Leptin is abnormally elevated in the plasma of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), where it is thought to promote and/or sustain pro-inflammatory responses. Whether this association could reflect an increased genetic susceptibility to develop SLE is not known, and studies of genetic associations with leptin-related polymorphisms in SLE patients have been so far inconclusive. Here we genotyped DNA samples from 15,706 SLE patients and healthy matched controls from four different ancestral groups, to correlate polymorphisms of genes of the leptin pathway to risk for SLE. It was found that although several SNPs showed weak associations, those associations did not remain significant after correction for multiple testing. These data do not support associations between defined leptin-related polymorphisms and increased susceptibility to develop SLE.
PMCID: PMC4658308  PMID: 26385092
systemic lupus erythematosus; leptin pathway; gene polymorphisms
6.  Identification of a systemic lupus erythematosus risk locus spanning ATG16L2, FCHSD2, and P2RY2 in Koreans 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disorder whose etiology is incompletely understood, but likely involves environmental triggers in genetically susceptible individuals. We sought to identify the genetic loci associated with SLE in a Korean population by performing an unbiased genome-wide association scan.
A total of 1,174 Korean SLE cases and 4,248 population controls were genotyped with strict quality control measures and analyzed for association. For select variants, replication was tested in an independent set of 1,412 SLE cases and 1,163 population controls of Korean and Chinese ancestries.
Eleven regions outside the HLA exceeded genome-wide significance (P<5×10−8). A novel SNP-SLE association was identified between FCHSD2 and P2RY2 peaking at rs11235667 (P = 1.0×10−8, odds ratio (OR) = 0.59) on a 33kb haplotype upstream to ATG16L2. Replication for rs11235667 resulted in Pmeta-rep=0.001 and Pmeta-overall=6.67×10−11 (OR=0.63). Within the HLA region, association peaked in the Class II region at rs116727542 with multiple independent effects. Classical HLA allele imputation identified HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-DQB1*0602, both highly correlated, as most strongly associated with SLE. We replicated ten previously established SLE risk loci: STAT1-STAT4, TNFSF4, TNFAIP3, IKZF1, HIP1, IRF5, BLK, WDFY4, ETS1 and IRAK1-MECP2. Of these loci, we identified previously unreported independent second effects in TNFAIP3 and TNFSF4 as well as differences in the association for a putative causal variant in the WDFY4 region.
Further studies are needed to identify true SLE risk effects in other suggestive loci and to identify the causal variant(s) in the regions of ATG16L2, FCHSD2, and P2RY2.
PMCID: PMC4981330  PMID: 26663301
7.  Genome-wide association meta-analysis in Chinese and European individuals identifies ten new loci associated with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Nature genetics  2016;48(8):940-946.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 1 152700) is a genetically complex autoimmune disease. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified more than 50 loci as robustly associated with the disease in single ancestries, but genome-wide transancestral studies have not been conducted. We combined three GWAS data sets from Chinese (1,659 cases and 3,398 controls) and European (4,036 cases and 6,959 controls) populations. A meta-analysis of these studies showed that over half of the published SLE genetic associations are present in both populations. A replication study in Chinese (3,043 cases and 5,074 controls) and European (2,643 cases and 9,032 controls) subjects found ten previously unreported SLE loci. Our study provides further evidence that the majority of genetic risk polymorphisms for SLE are contained within the same regions across both populations. Furthermore, a comparison of risk allele frequencies and genetic risk scores suggested that the increased prevalence of SLE in non-Europeans (including Asians) has a genetic basis.
PMCID: PMC4966635  PMID: 27399966
8.  Genetic association analyses implicate aberrant regulation of innate and adaptive immunity genes in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus 
Nature genetics  2015;47(12):1457-1464.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 152700) is a genetically complex autoimmune disease characterized by loss of immune tolerance to nuclear and cell surface antigens. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) had modest sample sizes, reducing their scope and reliability. Our study comprised 7,219 cases and 15,991 controls of European ancestry: a new GWAS, meta-analysis with a published GWAS and a replication study. We have mapped 43 susceptibility loci, including 10 novel associations. Assisted by dense genome coverage, imputation provided evidence for missense variants underpinning associations in eight genes. Other likely causal genes were established by examining associated alleles for cis-acting eQTL effects in a range of ex vivo immune cells. We found an over-representation (n=16) of transcription factors among SLE susceptibility genes. This supports the view that aberrantly regulated gene expression networks in multiple cell types in both the innate and adaptive immune response contribute to the risk of developing SLE.
PMCID: PMC4668589  PMID: 26502338
9.  Genome-wide association study identifies susceptibility loci in IL6, RPS9/LILRB3, and an intergenic locus on chromosome 21q22 in Takayasu’s arteritis 
Takayasu’s arteritis is a rare large vessel vasculitis with incompletely understood etiology. We performed the first unbiased genome-wide association study (GWAS) in Takayasu’s arteritis.
Two independent Takayasu’s arteritis cohorts from Turkey and North America were included in our study. The Turkish cohort consisted of 559 patients and 489 controls, and the North American cohort consisted of 134 European-derived patients and 1,047 controls. Genotyping was performed using the Omni1-Quad and Omni2.5 genotyping arrays. Genotyping data were subjected to rigorous quality control measures and subsequently analyzed to discover genetic susceptibility loci for Takayasu’s arteritis.
We identified genetic susceptibility loci for Takayasu’s arteritis with a genome-wide level of significance in IL6 (rs2069837, OR= 2.07, P= 6.70×10−9), RPS9/LILRB3 (rs11666543, OR= 1.65, P= 2.34×10−8), and an intergenic locus on chromosome 21q22 (rs2836878, OR= 1.79, P= 3.62×10−10). The genetic susceptibility locus in RPS9/LILRB3 is located within the leukocyte receptor complex (LRC) gene cluster on chromosome 19q13.4, and the disease risk variant in this locus correlates with reduced expression of multiple genes including the inhibitory leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor gene LILRB3 (P= 2.29×10−8). In addition, we identified candidate susceptibility genes with suggestive levels of association (P <1×10−5) including PCSK5, LILRA3, PPM1G/NRBP1, and PTK2B in Takayasu’s arteritis.
This study identified novel genetic susceptibility loci for Takayasu’s arteritis and uncovered potentially important aspects in the pathophysiology of this form of vasculitis.
PMCID: PMC4414813  PMID: 25604533
10.  Autophagy is activated in systemic lupus erythematosus and required for plasmablast development 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2014;74(5):912-920.
Autophagy has emerged as a critical homeostatic mechanism in T lymphocytes, influencing proliferation and differentiation. Autophagy in B cells has been less studied, but genetic deficiency causes impairment of early and late developmental stages
To explore the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of human and murine lupus, a disease in which B cells are critical effectors of pathology.
Autophagy was assessed using multiple techniques in NZB/W and control mice, and in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) compared to healthy controls. We evaluated the phenotype of the B cell compartment in Vav-Atg7−/− mice in vivo, and examined human and murine plasmablast formation following inhibition of autophagy.
We found activation of autophagy in early developmental and transitional stages of B cell development in a lupus mouse model even before disease onset, and which progressively increased with age. In human disease, again autophagy was activated compared with healthy controls, principally in naïve B cells. B cells isolated from Vav-Atg7F/F mice failed to effectively differentiate into plasma cells following stimulation in vitro. Similarly, human B cells stimulated in the presence of autophagy inhibition did not differentiate into plasmablasts.
Our data suggest activation of autophagy is a mechanism for survival of autoreactive B cells, and also demonstrate that it is required for plasmablast differentiation, processes that induce significant cellular stress. The implication of autophagy in two major pathogenic pathways in SLE suggests the potential to use inhibition of autophagy as a novel treatment target in this frequently severe autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC4152192  PMID: 24419333
11.  Autophagy is activated in systemic lupus erythematosus and required for plasmablast development 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2014;74(5):912-920.
Autophagy has emerged as a critical homeostatic mechanism in T lymphocytes, influencing proliferation and differentiation. Autophagy in B cells has been less studied, but genetic deficiency causes impairment of early and late developmental stages
To explore the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of human and murine lupus, a disease in which B cells are critical effectors of pathology.
Autophagy was assessed using multiple techniques in NZB/W and control mice, and in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) compared to healthy controls. We evaluated the phenotype of the B cell compartment in Vav-Atg7−/− mice in vivo, and examined human and murine plasmablast formation following inhibition of autophagy.
We found activation of autophagy in early developmental and transitional stages of B cell development in a lupus mouse model even before disease onset, and which progressively increased with age. In human disease, again autophagy was activated compared with healthy controls, principally in naïve B cells. B cells isolated from Vav-Atg7F/F mice failed to effectively differentiate into plasma cells following stimulation in vitro. Similarly, human B cells stimulated in the presence of autophagy inhibition did not differentiate into plasmablasts.
Our data suggest activation of autophagy is a mechanism for survival of autoreactive B cells, and also demonstrate that it is required for plasmablast differentiation, processes that induce significant cellular stress. The implication of autophagy in two major pathogenic pathways in SLE suggests the potential to use inhibition of autophagy as a novel treatment target in this frequently severe autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC4152192  PMID: 24419333
B cells; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Autoimmunity
12.  Preferential association of a functional variant in complement receptor 2 with antibodies to double-stranded DNA 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2014;75(1):242-252.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 152700) is characterised by the production of antibodies to nuclear antigens. We previously identified variants in complement receptor 2 (CR2/CD21) that were associated with decreased risk of SLE. This study aimed to identify the causal variant for this association.
Genotyped and imputed genetic variants spanning CR2 were assessed for association with SLE in 15 750 case-control subjects from four ancestral groups. Allele-specific functional effects of associated variants were determined using quantitative real-time PCR, quantitative flow cytometry, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-PCR.
The strongest association signal was detected at rs1876453 in intron 1 of CR2 (pmeta=4.2×10−4, OR 0.85), specifically when subjects were stratified based on the presence of dsDNA autoantibodies (case-control pmeta=7.6×10−7, OR 0.71; case-only pmeta=1.9×10−4, OR 0.75). Although allele-specific effects on B cell CR2 mRNA or protein levels were not identified, levels of complement receptor 1 (CR1/CD35) mRNA and protein were significantly higher on B cells of subjects harbouring the minor allele (p=0.0248 and p=0.0006, respectively). The minor allele altered the formation of several DNA protein complexes by EMSA, including one containing CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF), an effect that was confirmed by ChIP-PCR.
These data suggest that rs1876453 in CR2 has long-range effects on gene regulation that decrease susceptibility to lupus. Since the minor allele at rs1876453 is preferentially associated with reduced risk of the highly specific dsDNA autoantibodies that are present in preclinical, active and severe lupus, understanding its mechanisms will have important therapeutic implications.
PMCID: PMC4717392  PMID: 25180293
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Autoantibodies; Gene Polymorphism; B cells
13.  Improved monitoring of clinical response in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus by longitudinal trend in soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 
To determine whether optimal use of serial measurements of serum levels of soluble cell adhesion molecules (CAM) can improve monitoring of disease activity in SLE.
Serum levels of soluble CAM and conventional SLE biomarkers were measured in serial samples (n = 80) from 21 SLE patients during and after flare and correlated in longitudinal analysis with disease activity determined by ECLAM score. Blood samples from a second cohort of 34 SLE patients were subject to flow cytometry to correlate serum biomarkers with B cell subsets.
By adjusting for the baseline level (at the first visit), delta soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) showed stronger correlation with changes in ECLAM score and improved sensitivity and specificity for identifying SLE responders versus non-responders compared to conventional SLE biomarkers including anti-dsDNA antibody titre and complement C3. Multiple regression analysis identified delta sVCAM-1 as the best marker of SLE clinical response. sVCAM-1 levels were significantly correlated with CD95+CD27+ activated memory B cells, CD95+ plasmablasts and circulating plasma cell numbers in SLE patients.
Subtracting a baseline level of sVCAM-1 for each individual substantially improved its utility as a biomarker. Delta sVCAM-1 was superior to conventional SLE biomarkers for monitoring changes in disease activity. This suggests that serial monitoring of serum sVCAM-1 trends should be considered in SLE patients to document responses to treatment. We hypothesise that the correlation between activated B cell subsets and circulating plasma cell numbers with soluble VCAM-1 serum levels in SLE may relate to the important role of VCAM-1 in B lymphocyte survival and maturation in bone marrow and secondary lymphoid tissues.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0896-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4718032  PMID: 26746423
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Soluble cell adhesion molecules; Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1; Biomarker; Memory B cells; Plasmablasts; Plasma cells; CD95; Complement C3; Anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies
14.  Defective removal of ribonucleotides from DNA promotes systemic autoimmunity 
Genome integrity is continuously challenged by the DNA damage that arises during normal cell metabolism. Biallelic mutations in the genes encoding the genome surveillance enzyme ribonuclease H2 (RNase H2) cause Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), a pediatric disorder that shares features with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Here we determined that heterozygous parents of AGS patients exhibit an intermediate autoimmune phenotype and demonstrated a genetic association between rare RNASEH2 sequence variants and SLE. Evaluation of patient cells revealed that SLE- and AGS-associated mutations impair RNase H2 function and result in accumulation of ribonucleotides in genomic DNA. The ensuing chronic low level of DNA damage triggered a DNA damage response characterized by constitutive p53 phosphorylation and senescence. Patient fibroblasts exhibited constitutive upregulation of IFN-stimulated genes and an enhanced type I IFN response to the immunostimulatory nucleic acid polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid and UV light irradiation, linking RNase H2 deficiency to potentiation of innate immune signaling. Moreover, UV-induced cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer formation was markedly enhanced in ribonucleotide-containing DNA, providing a mechanism for photosensitivity in RNase H2–associated SLE. Collectively, our findings implicate RNase H2 in the pathogenesis of SLE and suggest a role of DNA damage–associated pathways in the initiation of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4382239  PMID: 25500883
15.  GWAS identifies novel SLE susceptibility genes and explains the association of the HLA region 
Genes and immunity  2014;15(6):347-354.
In a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) of individuals of European ancestry afflicted with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) the extensive utilization of imputation, stepwise multiple regression, lasso regularization, and increasing study power by utilizing False Discovery Rate (FDR) instead of a Bonferroni multiple test correction enabled us to identify 13 novel non-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes and confirmed the association of 4 genes previously reported to be associated. Novel genes associated with SLE susceptibility included two transcription factors (EHF, and MED1), two components of the NFκB pathway (RASSF2 and RNF114), one gene involved in adhesion and endothelial migration (CNTN6), and two genes involved in antigen presentation (BIN1 and SEC61G). In addition, the strongly significant association of multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HLA region was assigned to HLA alleles and serotypes and deconvoluted into four primary signals. The novel SLE-associated genes point to new directions for both the diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC4156543  PMID: 24871463
16.  Lupus risk variants in the PXK locus alter B-cell receptor internalization 
Frontiers in Genetics  2015;5:450.
Genome wide association studies have identified variants in PXK that confer risk for humoral autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), rheumatoid arthritis and more recently systemic sclerosis. While PXK is involved in trafficking of epidermal growth factor Receptor (EGFR) in COS-7 cells, mechanisms linking PXK to lupus pathophysiology have remained undefined. In an effort to uncover the mechanism at this locus that increases lupus-risk, we undertook a fine-mapping analysis in a large multi-ancestral study of lupus patients and controls. We define a large (257kb) common haplotype marking a single causal variant that confers lupus risk detected only in European ancestral populations and spans the promoter through the 3′ UTR of PXK. The strongest association was found at rs6445972 with P < 4.62 × 10−10, OR 0.81 (0.75–0.86). Using stepwise logistic regression analysis, we demonstrate that one signal drives the genetic association in the region. Bayesian analysis confirms our results, identifying a 95% credible set consisting of 172 variants spanning 202 kb. Functionally, we found that PXK operates on the B-cell antigen receptor (BCR); we confirmed that PXK influenced the rate of BCR internalization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that individuals carrying the risk haplotype exhibited a decreased rate of BCR internalization, a process known to impact B cell survival and cell fate. Taken together, these data define a new candidate mechanism for the genetic association of variants around PXK with lupus risk and highlight the regulation of intracellular trafficking as a genetically regulated pathway mediating human autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4288052  PMID: 25620976
lupus; PXK; fine-mapping; B cells; BCR
17.  In vivo evidence for apoptosis in the bone marrow in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(8):1106-1109.
An increase in leucocyte apoptosis and impaired clearance of apoptotic cells has been observed in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Apoptotic cells are likely to be a key source of autoantigens in SLE as they express many of the nuclear autoantigens (in surface blebs and apoptotic bodies) that are relevant to this disease. The clearance of apoptotic cells is usually a rapid process, such that few cells are usually seen in the extracellular environment in vivo. We report a case in which multiple apoptotic bodies were observed in the bone marrow of a patient with SLE that was complicated by an immune‐mediated pancytopenia. We have subsequently examined the frequency of apoptotic cells, identified morphologically, and by caspase‐3 staining in bone‐marrow trephine samples taken from patients with SLE over a 10‐year period of follow‐up. A high proportion of bone marrows contained apoptotic debris. The novel demonstration of apoptotic bodies in vivo in patients with SLE is unusual and supports the notion that the marrow may be a target organ in the disease. Their abundance is also consistent with the hypothesis that normal clearance mechanisms are defective and/or overwhelmed in SLE.
PMCID: PMC1954716  PMID: 17277002
apoptosis; bone marrow; pancytopenia; SLE
18.  The human GIMAP5 gene has a common polyadenylation polymorphism increasing risk to systemic lupus erythematosus 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2007;44(5):314-321.
Several members of the GIMAP gene family have been suggested as being involved in different aspects of the immune system in different species. Recently, a mutation in the GIMAP5 gene was shown to cause lymphopenia in a rat model of autoimmune insulin‐dependent diabetes. Thus it was hypothesised that genetic variation in GIMAP5 may be involved in susceptibility to other autoimmune disorders where lymphopenia is a key feature, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Material and methods
To investigate this, seven single nucleotide polymorphisms in GIMAP5 were analysed in five independent sets of family‐based SLE collections, containing more than 2000 samples.
A significant increase in SLE risk associated with the most common GIMAP5 haplotype was found (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.54, p = 0.0033). In families with probands diagnosed with trombocytopenia, the risk was increased (OR 2.11, 95% CI 1.09 to 4.09, p = 0.0153). The risk haplotype bears a polymorphic polyadenylation signal which alters the 3′ part of GIMAP5 mRNA by producing an inefficient polyadenylation signal. This results in higher proportion of non‐terminated mRNA for homozygous individuals (p<0.005), a mechanism shown to be causal in thalassaemias. To further assess the functional effect of the polymorphic polyadenylation signal in the risk haplotype, monocytes were treated with several cytokines affecting apoptosis. All the apoptotic cytokines induced GIMAP5 expression in two monocyte cell lines (1.5–6 times, p<0.0001 for all tests).
Taken together, the data suggest the role of GIMAP5 in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2597989  PMID: 17220214
genetic association; autoimmune; apoptosis; susceptibility gene
19.  Three Sgp Loci Act Independently as well as Synergistically to Elevate the Expression of Specific Endogenous Retroviruses Implicated in Murine Lupus 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;43:10-17.
Endogenous retroviruses are implicated in murine lupus nephritis. They provide a source of nephritogenic retroviral gp70-anti-gp70 immune complexes through the production of serum gp70 protein and anti-gp70 autoantibodies as a result of the activation of TLR7. The Sgp (serum gp70 production) loci identified in lupus-prone mice play distinct roles for the expression of different classes of endogenous retroviruses, as Sgp3 regulates the transcription of xenotropic, polytropic and modified polytropic (mPT) viruses, and Sgp4 the transcription of only xenotropic viruses. In the present study, we extended these analyses to a third locus, Sgp5, using BALB/c mice congenic for the NZW-derived Sgp5 allele and also explored the possible interaction of Sgp3 and Sgp4 loci to promote the expression of endogenous retroviruses and serum gp70. The analysis of Sgp5 BALB/c congenic mice demonstrated that the Sgp5 locus enhanced the expression of xenotropic and mPT viruses, thereby upregulating the production of serum gp70. These data indicate a distinct action of the Sgp5 locus on the expression of endogenous retroviruses, as compared with two other Sgp loci. Moreover, comparative analysis of C57BL/6 double congenic mice for Sgp3 and Sgp4 loci with single congenic mice revealed that Sgp3 and Sgp4 acted synergistically to elevate the transcription of the potentially replicationcompetent Xmv18 provirus and the production of serum gp70. This indicates that the combined effect of three different Sgp loci markedly enhance the expression of endogenous retroviruses and their gene product, serum gp70, thereby contributing to the formation of nephritogenic gp70-anti-gp70 immune complexes in murine lupus.
PMCID: PMC3672360  PMID: 23465716
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Endogenous retrovirus; gp70
20.  Variants at multiple loci implicated in both innate and adaptive immune responses are associated with Sjögren’s syndrome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2792.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a common autoimmune disease (~0.7% of European Americans) typically presenting as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and xerostomia. In addition to strong association within the HLA region at 6p21 (Pmeta=7.65×10−114), we establish associations with IRF5-TNPO3 (Pmeta=2.73×10−19), STAT4 (Pmeta=6.80×10−15), IL12A (Pmeta =1.17×10−10), FAM167A-BLK (Pmeta=4.97×10−10), DDX6-CXCR5 (Pmeta=1.10×10−8), and TNIP1 (Pmeta=3.30×10−8). Suggestive associations with Pmeta<5×10−5 were observed with 29 regions including TNFAIP3, PTTG1, PRDM1, DGKQ, FCGR2A, IRAK1BP1, ITSN2, and PHIP amongst others. These results highlight the importance of genes involved in both innate and adaptive immunity in Sjögren’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3867192  PMID: 24097067
21.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and altered type I interferon expression. Genetic surveys and genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 SLE susceptibility genes. One of these genes, TNIP1, encodes the ABIN1 protein. ABIN1 functions in the immune system by restricting the NF-κB signaling. In order to better understand the genetic factors that influence association with SLE in genes that regulate the NF-κB pathway, we analyzed a dense set of genetic markers spanning TNIP1 and TAX1BP1, as well as the TNIP1 homolog, TNIP2, in case-control sets of diverse ethnic origins.
We fine-mapped TNIP1, TNIP2, and TAX1BP1 in a total of 8372 SLE cases and 7492 healthy controls from European-ancestry, African-American, Hispanic, East Asian, and African-American Gullah populations. Levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein were analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively, in EBV-transformed human B cell lines.
We found significant associations between genetic variants within TNIP1 and SLE but not in TNIP2 or TAX1BP1. After resequencing and imputation, we identified two independent risk haplotypes within TNIP1 in individuals of European-ancestry that were also present in African-American and Hispanic populations. These risk haplotypes produced lower levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein suggesting they harbor hypomorphic functional variants that influence susceptibility to SLE by restricting ABIN1 expression.
Our results confirmed the association signals between SLE and TNIP1 variants in multiple populations and provide new insight into the mechanism by which TNIP1 variants may contribute to SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
22.  Impact of Genetic Ancestry and Socio-Demographic Status on the Clinical Expression of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Amerindian-European Populations 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3687-3694.
Amerindian-Europeans, Asians and African-Americans have an excess morbidity from SLE and higher prevalence of lupus nephritis than Caucasians. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between genetic ancestry and socio-demographic characteristics and clinical features in a large cohort of Amerindian-European SLE patients.
A total of 2116 SLE patients of Amerindian-European origin and 4001 SLE patients of European descent with clinical data were used in the study. Genotyping of 253 continental ancestry informative markers was performed on the Illumina platform. The STRUCTURE and ADMIXTURE software were used to determine genetic ancestry of each individual. Correlation between ancestry and socio-demographic and clinical data were analyzed using logistic regression.
The average Amerindian genetic ancestry of 2116 SLE patients was 40.7%. There was an increased risk of having renal involvement (P<0.0001, OR= 3.50 95%CI 2.63-4.63) and an early age of onset with the presence of Amerindian genetic ancestry (P<0.0001). Amerindian ancestry protected against photosensitivity (P<0.0001, OR= 0.58 95%CI 0.44-0.76), oral ulcers (P<0.0001, OR= 0.55 95%CI 0.42-0.72), and serositis (P<0.0001, OR= 0.56 95%CI 0.41-0.75) after adjustment by age, gender and age of onset. However, gender and age of onset had stronger effects on malar rash, discoid rash, arthritis and neurological involvement than genetic ancestry.
In general, genetic Amerindian ancestry correlates with lower socio-demographic status and increases the risk for developing renal involvement and SLE at an earlier age of onset.
PMCID: PMC3485439  PMID: 22886787
23.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
24.  PTPN22 Association in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) with Respect to Individual Ancestry and Clinical Sub-Phenotypes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69404.
Protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) is a negative regulator of T-cell activation associated with several autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Missense rs2476601 is associated with SLE in individuals with European ancestry. Since the rs2476601 risk allele frequency differs dramatically across ethnicities, we assessed robustness of PTPN22 association with SLE and its clinical sub-phenotypes across four ethnically diverse populations. Ten SNPs were genotyped in 8220 SLE cases and 7369 controls from in European-Americans (EA), African-Americans (AA), Asians (AS), and Hispanics (HS). We performed imputation-based association followed by conditional analysis to identify independent associations. Significantly associated SNPs were tested for association with SLE clinical sub-phenotypes, including autoantibody profiles. Multiple testing was accounted for by using false discovery rate. We successfully imputed and tested allelic association for 107 SNPs within the PTPN22 region and detected evidence of ethnic-specific associations from EA and HS. In EA, the strongest association was at rs2476601 (P = 4.7×10−9, OR = 1.40 (95% CI = 1.25–1.56)). Independent association with rs1217414 was also observed in EA, and both SNPs are correlated with increased European ancestry. For HS imputed intronic SNP, rs3765598, predicted to be a cis-eQTL, was associated (P = 0.007, OR = 0.79 and 95% CI = 0.67–0.94). No significant associations were observed in AA or AS. Case-only analysis using lupus-related clinical criteria revealed differences between EA SLE patients positive for moderate to high titers of IgG anti-cardiolipin (aCL IgG >20) versus negative aCL IgG at rs2476601 (P = 0.012, OR = 1.65). Association was reinforced when these cases were compared to controls (P = 2.7×10−5, OR = 2.11). Our results validate that rs2476601 is the most significantly associated SNP in individuals with European ancestry. Additionally, rs1217414 and rs3765598 may be associated with SLE. Further studies are required to confirm the involvement of rs2476601 with aCL IgG.
PMCID: PMC3737240  PMID: 23950893
25.  Variable association of reactive intermediate genes with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in populations with different African ancestry 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(6):842-849.
Little is known about the genetic etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in individuals of African ancestry, despite its higher prevalence and greater disease severity. Overproduction of nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species are implicated in the pathogenesis and severity of SLE, making NO synthases and other reactive intermediate related genes biological candidates for disease susceptibility. This study analyzed variation in reactive intermediate genes for association with SLE in two populations with African ancestry.
A total of 244 SNPs from 53 regions were analyzed in non-Gullah African Americans (AA; 1432 cases and 1687 controls) and the genetically more homogeneous Gullah of the Sea Islands of South Carolina (133 cases and 112 controls) and. Single-marker, haplotype, and two-locus interaction tests were computed for these populations.
The glutathione reductase gene GSR (rs2253409, P=0.0014, OR [95% CI]=1.26 [1.09–1.44]) was the most significant single-SNP association in AA. In the Gullah, the NADH dehydrogenase NDUFS4 (rs381575, P=0.0065, OR [95%CI]=2.10 [1.23–3.59]) and nitric oxide synthase gene NOS1 (rs561712, P=0.0072, OR [95%CI]=0.62 [0.44–0.88]) were most strongly associated with SLE. When both populations were analyzed together, GSR remained the most significant effect (rs2253409, P=0.00072, OR [95%CI]=1.26 [1.10–1.44]). Haplotype and two-locus interaction analyses also uncovered different loci in each population.
These results suggest distinct patterns of association with SLE in African-derived populations; specific loci may be more strongly associated within select population groups.
PMCID: PMC3735344  PMID: 23637325
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; genetic association studies; oxygen compounds; single nucleotide polymorphism

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