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1.  Reflections on Darwinian Evolution – Is there a Jewish Perspective? 
I present a realistic view of what Darwinian evolution is in its current form and what it is not. I argue that the Torah is not a source of scientific knowledge and all attempts to reconcile its plain text with the data of science are an exercise in futility. The article argues the position that science and the Torah are incommensurable. I argue against using the Torah for attaining knowledge about the nature of the world, or using science for enhancing or denying the truth of the Torah.
doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10044
PMCID: PMC3678937  PMID: 23908802
Evolution; fossil; Judaism; religion and science; Moses Maimonides
2.  Development of systemic lupus erythematosus in NZM 2328 mice in the absence of any single BAFF receptor 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(4):1043-1054.
Objective
To determine the necessity for any individual BAFF receptor in the development of SLE.
Methods
Bcma, Taci, and Br3 null mutations were introgressed into NZM 2328 mice. NZM.Bcma−/−, NZM.Taci−/−, and NZM.Br3−/− mice were evaluated for lymphocyte phenotype and BAFF receptor expression by flow cytometry, B cell responsiveness to BAFF by in vitro culture, serum BAFF and total IgG and IgG anti-dsDNA levels by ELISA, renal immunopathology by immunofluorescence and histopathology, and clinical disease.
Results
NZM.Bcma−/−, NZM.Taci−/−, and NZM.Br3−/− mice failed to surface-express BCMA, TACI, and BR3, respectively. Transitional and follicular B cells from NZM.Br3−/− mice were much less responsive to BAFF than the corresponding cells from wild-type (WT), NZM.Bcma−/−, or NZM.Taci−/− mice. In comparison to WT mice, NZM.Bcma−/− and NZM.Taci−/− mice harbored increased spleen B cells, T cells, and plasma cells (PC), whereas serum total IgG and IgG anti-dsDNA levels were similar. Despite their paucity of B cells, NZM.Br3−/− mice harbored increased T cells and WT-like numbers of PC and levels of IgG anti-dsDNA. Serum BAFF levels were increased in NZM.Taci−/− and NZM.Br3−/− mice but were decreased in NZM.Bcma−/− mice. Despite their phenotypic differences, renal immunopathology and clinical disease in NZM.Bcma−/−, NZM.Taci−/−, and NZM.Br3−/− mice were at least as severe as in WT mice.
Conclusions
Any single BAFF receptor, including BR3, is dispensable to development of SLE in NZM mice. Development of disease in NZM.Br3−/− mice demonstrates that BAFF/BCMA and/or BAFF/TACI interactions contribute to SLE and that profound, life-long reduction in B cells does not guarantee protection from SLE.
doi:10.1002/art.37846
PMCID: PMC3618582  PMID: 23334904
3.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
These results suggest distinct patterns of association with SLE in African-derived populations; specific loci may be more strongly associated within select population groups.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.120989
PMCID: PMC3735344  PMID: 23637325
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; genetic association studies; oxygen compounds; single nucleotide polymorphism
4.  Genome-wide association scan in women with systemic lupus erythematosus identifies susceptibility variants in ITGAM, PXK, KIAA1542 and other loci 
Nature genetics  2008;40(2):204-210.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a common systemic autoimmune disease with complex etiology but strong clustering in families (λS = ~30). We performed a genome-wide association scan using 317,501 SNPs in 720 women of European ancestry with SLE and in 2,337 controls, and we genotyped consistently associated SNPs in two additional independent sample sets totaling 1,846 affected women and 1,825 controls. Aside from the expected strong association between SLE and the HLA region on chromosome 6p21 and the previously confirmed non-HLA locus IRF5 on chromosome 7q32, we found evidence of association with replication (1.1 × 10−7 < Poverall < 1.6 × 10−23; odds ratio 0.82–1.62)in four regions: 16p11.2 (ITGAM), 11p15.5 (KIAA1542), 3p14.3 (PXK) and 1q25.1 (rs10798269). We also found evidence for association (P < 1 × 10−5) at FCGR2A, PTPN22 and STAT4, regions previously associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, as well as at ≥9 other loci (P < 2 × 10−7). Our results show that numerous genes, some with known immune-related functions, predispose to SLE.
doi:10.1038/ng.81
PMCID: PMC3712260  PMID: 18204446
5.  Dispensability of APRIL to development of systemic lupus erythematosus in NZM 2328 mice 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(5):1610-1619.
Objective
To determine the role for APRIL in the development of SLE.
Methods
Wild-type (WT) NZM 2328, NZM.April-/-, NZM.Baff-/-, and NZM.Baff-/-.April-/- mice were evaluated for lymphocyte phenotype by flow cytometry, for serum total IgG and IgG autoantibody levels by ELISA, for glomerular deposition of IgG and C3 by immunofluorescence, for renal histopathology, and for clinical disease (severe proteinuria).
Results
In comparison to WT mice, NZM.April-/- mice harbored increased spleen B cells, T cells, and plasma cells (PC); increased serum levels of IgG anti-chromatin antibodies; and decreased numbers of bone marrow (BM) PC. In addition, glomerular deposition of IgG and C3 was similar in NZM.April-/- and WT mice; renal histopathology tended to be more severe in NZM.April-/- mice than in WT mice; and development of clinical disease was identical in NZM.April-/- and WT mice. BM (but not spleen) PC and serum IgG anti-chromatin and anti-dsDNA antibody levels were lower in NZM.Baff-/-.April-/- mice than in NZM.Baff-/- mice, whereas renal immunopathology in each cohort was equally mild.
Conclusions
APRIL is dispensable for development of full-blown SLE in NZM mice. Moreover, the elimination of both APRIL and BAFF has no discernable effect on development of renal immunopathology or clinical disease beyond that of elimination of BAFF alone. The reduction in BM PC in hosts doubly-deficient in APRIL and BAFF beyond that in hosts deficient only in BAFF raises concern that combined antagonism of APRIL and BAFF may lead to greater immunosuppression without concomitant increase in therapeutic efficacy.
doi:10.1002/art.33458
PMCID: PMC3292707  PMID: 22127792
6.  Variation in the ICAM1–ICAM4–ICAM5 locus is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus susceptibility in multiple ancestries 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;71(11):1809-1814.
Objective
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 152700) is a chronic autoimmune disease for which the aetiology includes genetic and environmental factors. ITGAM, integrin αΜ (complement component 3 receptor 3 subunit) encoding a ligand for intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) proteins, is an established SLE susceptibility locus. This study aimed to evaluate the independent and joint effects of genetic variations in the genes that encode ITGAM and ICAM.
Methods
The authors examined several markers in the ICAM1–ICAM4–ICAM5 locus on chromosome 19p13 and the single ITGAM polymorphism (rs1143679) using a large-scale case–control study of 17 481 unrelated participants from four ancestry populations. The single marker association and gene–gene interaction were analysed for each ancestry, and a meta-analysis across the four ancestries was performed.
Results
The A-allele of ICAM1–ICAM4–ICAM5 rs3093030, associated with elevated plasma levels of soluble ICAM1, and the A-allele of ITGAM rs1143679 showed the strongest association with increased SLE susceptibility in each of the ancestry populations and the trans-ancestry meta-analysis (ORmeta=1.16, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.22; p=4.88×10−10 and ORmeta=1.67, 95% CI 1.55 to 1.79; p=3.32×10−46, respectively). The effect of the ICAM single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was independent of the effect of the ITGAM SNP rs1143679, and carriers of both ICAM rs3093030-AA and ITGAM rs1143679-AA had an OR of 4.08 compared with those with no risk allele in either SNP (95% CI 2.09 to 7.98; p=3.91×10−5).
Conclusion
These findings are the first to suggest that an ICAM–integrin-mediated pathway contributes to susceptibility to SLE.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-201110
PMCID: PMC3466387  PMID: 22523428
7.  B cell- and BAFF-dependence of IFNα-exaggerated disease in SLE-prone NZM 2328 mice1 
IFNα is a potent activator of innate and adaptive immunity, and its administration to pre-autoimmune (NZBxNZW)F1 mice promotes virulent systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease. Given the known contributions of B cells and BAFF to SLE, we evaluated the ability of IFNα administration to induce disease in wild-type (WT), B cell-deficient, and BAFF-deficient NZM 2328 mice. Whereas WT mice rapidly developed proliferative glomerulonephritis (GN), marked proteinuria, and increased mortality in response to IFNα administration, B cell-deficient mice developed neither renal pathology nor clinical disease. Moreover, BAFF-deficient mice, despite developing limited glomerular IgG and C3 deposition, also remained free of histological GN and clinical disease. Strikingly, similar T cell expansion and serum IgG responses were observed in Adv-IFN-treated WT and BAFF-deficient mice despite their disparate pathological and clinical responses, whereas numbers of activated B cells increased in WT mice but not in BAFF-deficient mice. Nonetheless, B cell, plasma cell, and T cell infiltration of the kidneys in Adv-IFN-treated WT mice was similar to that in WT mice treated with Adv-control. Its ability to promote SLE disease in WT mice notwithstanding, IFNα administration failed to drive the preferential expansion of CD4+ memory T cells that occurs during the natural course of disease, and glomerular infiltration of macrophages failed to associate with development of disease. These results collectively suggest that therapeutic targeting in SLE of BAFF and/or B cells in SLE could be successful even in states of IFNα overexpression. Moreover, our results document important biological differences between IFNα-driven and spontaneous “natural” SLE disease.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1000466
PMCID: PMC3074466  PMID: 21383240
rodent; systemic lupus erythematosus; cytokines
8.  Evaluation of the TREX1 gene in a large multi-ancestral lupus cohort 
Genes and immunity  2011;12(4):270-279.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disorder with a complex pathogenesis in which genetic, hormonal and environmental factors play a role. Rare mutations in the TREX1 gene, the major mammalian 3′-5′ exonuclease, have been reported in sporadic SLE cases. Some of these mutations have also been identified in a rare pediatric neurologic condition featuring an inflammatory encephalopathy known as Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS). We sought to investigate the frequency of these mutations in a large multi-ancestral cohort of SLE cases and controls.
Methods
Forty single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including both common and rare variants, across the TREX1 gene were evaluated in ∼8370 patients with SLE and ∼7490 control subjects. Stringent quality control procedures were applied and principal components and admixture proportions were calculated to identify outliers for removal from analysis. Population-based case-control association analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Results
The estimated frequency of TREX1 mutations in our lupus cohort was 0.5%. Five heterozygous mutations were detected at the Y305C polymorphism in European lupus cases but none were observed in European controls. Five African cases incurred heterozygous mutations at the E266G polymorphism and, again, none were observed in the African controls. A rare homozygous R114H mutation was identified in one Asian SLE patient whereas all genotypes at this mutation in previous reports for SLE were heterozygous. Analysis of common TREX1 SNPs (MAF >10%) revealed a relatively common risk haplotype in European SLE patients with neurologic manifestations, especially seizures, with a frequency of 58% in lupus cases compared to 45% in normal controls (p=0.0008, OR=1.73, 95% CI=1.25-2.39). Finally, the presence or absence of specific autoantibodies in certain populations produced significant genetic associations. For example, a strong association with anti-nRNP was observed in the European cohort at a coding synonymous variant rs56203834 (p=2.99E-13, OR=5.2, 95% CI=3.18-8.56).
Conclusion
Our data confirm and expand previous reports and provide additional support for the involvement of TREX1 in lupus pathogenesis.
doi:10.1038/gene.2010.73
PMCID: PMC3107387  PMID: 21270825
9.  Differential Genetic Associations for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Based on Anti–dsDNA Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001323.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, systemic autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody formation. Previously published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have investigated SLE as a single phenotype. Therefore, we conducted a GWAS to identify genetic factors associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production, a SLE–related autoantibody with diagnostic and clinical importance. Using two independent datasets, over 400,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied in a total of 1,717 SLE cases and 4,813 healthy controls. Anti–dsDNA autoantibody positive (anti–dsDNA +, n = 811) and anti–dsDNA autoantibody negative (anti–dsDNA –, n = 906) SLE cases were compared to healthy controls and to each other to identify SNPs associated specifically with these SLE subtypes. SNPs in the previously identified SLE susceptibility loci STAT4, IRF5, ITGAM, and the major histocompatibility complex were strongly associated with anti–dsDNA + SLE. Far fewer and weaker associations were observed for anti–dsDNA – SLE. For example, rs7574865 in STAT4 had an OR for anti–dsDNA + SLE of 1.77 (95% CI 1.57–1.99, p = 2.0E-20) compared to an OR for anti–dsDNA – SLE of 1.26 (95% CI 1.12–1.41, p = 2.4E-04), with pheterogeneity<0.0005. SNPs in the SLE susceptibility loci BANK1, KIAA1542, and UBE2L3 showed evidence of association with anti–dsDNA + SLE and were not associated with anti–dsDNA – SLE. In conclusion, we identified differential genetic associations with SLE based on anti–dsDNA autoantibody production. Many previously identified SLE susceptibility loci may confer disease risk through their role in autoantibody production and be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity loci. Lack of strong SNP associations may suggest that other types of genetic variation or non-genetic factors such as environmental exposures have a greater impact on susceptibility to anti–dsDNA – SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can involve virtually any organ system. SLE patients produce antibodies that bind to their own cells and proteins (autoantibodies) which can cause irreversible organ damage. One particular SLE–related autoantibody directed at double-stranded DNA (anti–dsDNA) is associated with kidney involvement and more severe disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have studied SLE itself, not particular SLE manifestations. Therefore, we conducted this GWAS of anti–dsDNA autoantibody production to identify genetic associations with this clinically important autoantibody. We found that many previously identified SLE–associated genes are more strongly associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production than SLE itself, and they may be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity genes. No strong genetic associations were observed for SLE patients who do not produce anti–dsDNA autoantibodies, suggesting that other factors may have more influence in developing this type of SLE. Further investigation of these autoantibody propensity genes may lead to greater insight into the causes of autoantibody production and organ damage in SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001323
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
10.  Deficiency of type I IFN receptor in lupus-prone NZM 2328 mice decreases dendritic cell numbers and activation and protects from disease 1 
Type I interferons are potent regulators of innate and adaptive immunity and are implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus. Here we report that clinical and pathological lupus nephritis and serum anti-nuclear antibody levels are greatly attenuated in NZM 2328 mice deficient in type I IFN receptors (IFNAR). To determine if the inflammatory environment in NZM 2328 mice leads to IFNAR-regulated changes in dendritic cells (DC), the number, activation, and function of DC subsets were compared in 2 and 5 month-old (clinically healthy) female NZM and NZM-IFNAR-/- mice. Numbers of activated CD40hi plasmacytoid DC (pDC) were significantly increased in renal lymph nodes of 2 month-old NZM but not NZM-IFNAR-/- mice, suggesting an early IFNAR-dependent expansion and activation of pDC at disease sites. Relative to NZM spleens, NZM-IFNAR-/- spleens in 5 month-old mice were significantly decreased in size and contained reduced numbers of conventional DC (cDC) subsets, but not pDC. Splenic and renal lymph node NZM-IFNAR-/- DC analyzed directly ex vivo expressed significantly less CD40, CD86 and PDL1 than NZM DC. Upon activation with synthetic TLR9 ligands in vitro, splenic NZM-IFNAR-/- DC produced less IL-12p40/70 and TNFα than NZM DC. The limited IFNAR-/- DC response to endogenous activating stimuli correlated with reduced numbers of splenic activated memory CD4+ T cells and CD19+ B cells in older mice. Thus, IFNAR signaling significantly increases DC numbers, acquisition of antigen presentation competence, and pro-inflammatory function prior to onset of clinically apparent lupus disease.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.0803872
PMCID: PMC2766036  PMID: 19812195
Systemic lupus erythematosus; dendritic cells; autoimmunity; cell activation; cell differentiation
11.  Paucity of Clinical Disease despite Serological Autoimmunity and Kidney Pathology in Lupus-Prone New Zealand Mixed 2328 Mice Deficient in BAFF1 
Constitutive overexpression of B cell-activating factor belonging to the TNF family (BAFF) promotes development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and treatment of SLE mice with BAFF antagonists ameliorates disease. To determine whether SLE can develop de novo in BAFF-deficient hosts, BAFF-deficient New Zealand Mixed (NZM) 2328 (NZM.Baff−/−) mice were generated. In NZM.Baff−/− mice, spleen B cells (including CD5+ B1a and CD5− B1b B cells), germinal centers, Ig-secreting cells, and T cells were reduced in comparison to NZM.Baff+/+ mice. Serum total Ig and autoantibody levels were reduced at 4–6 mo but approached wild-type levels with increasing age, indicating that autoreactive B cells can survive and secrete autoantibodies despite the complete absence of BAFF. At least some of these autoantibodies are nephrophilic in that glomerular deposition of total IgG and IgG1 (but not of IgG2a, IgG2b, or C3) was substantial in NZM.Baff−/− mice by 12–13 mo of age. Despite proliferative glomerulonephritis, highlighted by widespread glomerular hyaline thrombi, being common among NZM.Baff−/− mice by 6–7 mo of age, severe proteinuria and mortality were greatly attenuated. These results demonstrate that the lifelong absence of BAFF does not protect NZM 2328 mice from serological autoimmunity and renal pathology. Nevertheless, the character of the renal pathology is altered, and the mice are largely spared from clinically overt disease (severe proteinuria and premature death). These observations may have profound ramifications for the use of BAFF antagonists in human SLE and related diseases.
PMCID: PMC2896675  PMID: 16888029
12.  Accelerated Pathological and Clinical Nephritis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus-Prone New Zealand Mixed 2328 Mice Doubly Deficient in TNF Receptor 1 and TNF Receptor 2 via a Th17-Associated Pathway1 
TNF-α has both proinflammatory and immunoregulatory functions. Whereas a protective role for TNF administration in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)-prone (New Zealand Black × New Zealand White)F1 mice has been established, it remains uncertain whether this effect segregates at the individual TNFR. We generated SLE-prone New Zealand Mixed 2328 mice genetically deficient in TNFR1, in TNFR2, or in both receptors. Doubly-deficient mice developed accelerated pathological and clinical nephritis with elevated levels of circulating IgG anti-dsDNA autoantibodies and increased numbers of CD4+ T lymphocytes, especially activated memory (CD44highCD62Llow) CD4+ T cells. We show that these cells expressed a Th17 gene profile, were positive for IL-17 intracellular staining by FACS, and produced exogenous IL-17 in culture. In contrast, immunological, pathological, and clinical profiles of mice deficient in either TNFR alone did not differ from those in each other or from those in wild-type controls. Thus, total ablation of TNF-α-mediated signaling was highly deleterious to the host in the New Zealand Mixed 2328 SLE model. These observations may have profound ramifications for the use of TNF and TNFR antagonists in human SLE and related autoimmune disorders, as well as demonstrate, for the first time, the association of the Th17 pathway with an animal model of SLE.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.0802948
PMCID: PMC2790862  PMID: 19201910
13.  Evaluation of C1q genomic region in minority racial groups of lupus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):517-524.
Complement cascade plasma proteins have a complex role in the etiopathogenesis of SLE. Hereditary C1q deficiency has been strongly related to SLE; however, there are very few published SLE studies that evaluate the polymorphisms of the genes encoding for C1q (A, B, and C). In this study, we evaluated 17 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across 37 kb of C1QA, B and C in a lupus cohort of peoples of African-American and Hispanic origin. In a case only analysis, significant association at multiple SNPs in the C1QA gene was detected in African-Americans with kidney nephritis (best p=4.91 × 10−6). In addition, C1QA was associated with SLE in African-Americans with a lack of nephritis and accompanying photosensitivity when compared to normal controls (p=6.80 × 10−6). A similar trend was observed in the Hispanic subjects (p=0.003). Quantitative analysis demonstrates that some SNPs in the C1q genes might be correlated with C3 complement levels in an additive model among African-Americans (best p=0.0001). The CIQA gene is associated with subphenotypes of lupus in African-American and Hispanic subjects. Further studies with higher SNP densities in this region and other complement components are necessary to elucidate the complex genetics and phenotypic interactions between complement components and SLE.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.33
PMCID: PMC2769492  PMID: 19440201
14.  Admixture in Hispanic-Americans: Its impact on ITGAM association and implications for admixture mapping in SLE 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):539-545.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) disproportionately affects minorities, such as Hispanic-Americans. Prevalence of SLE is 3–5 times higher in Hispanic Americans (HA) than European derived populations, and have more active disease at the time of diagnosis, with more serious organ system involvement. HA is an admixed population, it is possible that there is an effect of admixture on the relative risk of disease. This admixture can create substantial increase of linkage disequilibrium (LD) in both magnitude and range, which can provide a unique opportunity for admixture mapping. Main objectives of this study are to (a) estimate hidden population structure in HA individuals; (b) estimate individual ancestry proportions and its impact on SLE risk; (c) assess impact of admixture on ITGAM association, a recently identified SLE susceptibility gene; and (d) estimate power of admixture mapping in HA. Our dataset contained 1,125 individuals, of whom 884 (657 SLE cases and 227 controls) were self classified as HA. Using 107 unlinked ancestry informative markers (AIMs) we estimated hidden population structure and individual ancestry in HA. Out of 5,671 possible pair-wise LD, 54% were statistically significant, indicating recent population admixture. The best fitted model for HA was a four population model with average ancestry of European (48%), American-Indian (40%), African (8%) and a fourth population (4%) with unknown ancestry. We also identified significant higher risk associated with American-Indian ancestry (OR=4.84, P=0.0001, 95%CI=2.14—10.95) on overall SLE. We showed that ITGAM is associated as a risk factor for SLE (OR= 2.06, P=8.74×10−5, 95%CI=1.44–2.97). This association is not affected by population substructure or admixture. We have demonstrated that HA have great potential and are an 3 appropriate population for admixture mapping. As expected, the case-only design is more powerful than case-control design, for any given admixture proportion or ancestry risk ratio.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.30
PMCID: PMC2714406  PMID: 19387459
SLE; Association; Hispanics; Admixture mapping; Hispanic-American; Population structure
15.  Function2Gene: A gene selection tool to increase the power of genetic association studies by utilizing public databases and expert knowledge 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:311.
Background
Many common disorders have multiple genetic components which convey increased susceptibility. SNPs have been used to identify genetic components which are associated with a disease. Unfortunately, many studies using these methods suffer from low reproducibility due to lack of power.
Results
We present a set of programs which implement a novel method for searching for disease-associated genes using prior information to select and order genes from publicly available databases by their prior likelihood of association with the disease. These programs were used in a published study of childhood-onset SLE which yielded novel associations with modest sample size.
Conclusion
Using prior information to decrease the size of the problem space to an amount commensurate with available samples and resources while maintaining appropriate power enables researchers to increase their likelihood of discovering reproducible associations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-311
PMCID: PMC2500032  PMID: 18631403
16.  Differential Contribution of IL-4 and STAT6 vs STAT4 to the Development of Lupus Nephritis1 
Mechanisms that initiate lupus nephritis and cause progression to end-stage renal disease remain poorly understood. In this study, we show that lupus-prone New Zealand Mixed 2410 mice that develop a severe glomerulosclerosis and rapidly progressive renal disease overexpress IL-4 in vivo. In these mice, STAT6 deficiency or anti-IL-4 Ab treatment decreases type 2 cytokine responses and ameliorates kidney disease, particularly glomerulosclerosis, despite the presence of high levels of IgG anti-dsDNA Abs. STAT4 deficiency, however, decreases type 1 and increases type 2 cytokine responses, and accelerates nephritis, in the absence of high levels of IgG anti-dsDNA Abs. Thus, STAT6 and IL-4 may selectively contribute to the development of glomerulosclerosis, whereas STAT4 may play a role in autoantibody production.
PMCID: PMC2291553  PMID: 12707364
17.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1002/art.34642
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
18.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003870
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
19.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069404
PMCID: PMC3737240  PMID: 23950893
20.  Trans-Ancestral Studies Fine Map the SLE-Susceptibility Locus TNFSF4 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003554.
We previously established an 80 kb haplotype upstream of TNFSF4 as a susceptibility locus in the autoimmune disease SLE. SLE-associated alleles at this locus are associated with inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and ischaemic stroke. In Europeans, the TNFSF4 causal variants have remained elusive due to strong linkage disequilibrium exhibited by alleles spanning the region. Using a trans-ancestral approach to fine-map the locus, utilising 17,900 SLE and control subjects including Amerindian/Hispanics (1348 cases, 717 controls), African-Americans (AA) (1529, 2048) and better powered cohorts of Europeans and East Asians, we find strong association of risk alleles in all ethnicities; the AA association replicates in African-American Gullah (152,122). The best evidence of association comes from two adjacent markers: rs2205960-T (P = 1.71×10−34, OR = 1.43[1.26–1.60]) and rs1234317-T (P = 1.16×10−28, OR = 1.38[1.24–1.54]). Inference of fine-scale recombination rates for all populations tested finds the 80 kb risk and non-risk haplotypes in all except African-Americans. In this population the decay of recombination equates to an 11 kb risk haplotype, anchored in the 5′ region proximal to TNFSF4 and tagged by rs2205960-T after 1000 Genomes phase 1 (v3) imputation. Conditional regression analyses delineate the 5′ risk signal to rs2205960-T and the independent non-risk signal to rs1234314-C. Our case-only and SLE-control cohorts demonstrate robust association of rs2205960-T with autoantibody production. The rs2205960-T is predicted to form part of a decameric motif which binds NF-κBp65 with increased affinity compared to rs2205960-G. ChIP-seq data also indicate NF-κB interaction with the DNA sequence at this position in LCL cells. Our research suggests association of rs2205960-T with SLE across multiple groups and an independent non-risk signal at rs1234314-C. rs2205960-T is associated with autoantibody production and lymphopenia. Our data confirm a global signal at TNFSF4 and a role for the expressed product at multiple stages of lymphocyte dysregulation during SLE pathogenesis. We confirm the validity of trans-ancestral mapping in a complex trait.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex disease in which the body's immune cells cause inflammation in one or more systems to cause the associated morbidity. Hormones, the environment and genes are all causal contributors to SLE and over the past several years the genetic component of SLE has been firmly established. Several genes which are regulators of the immune system are associated with disease risk. We have established one of these, the tumour-necrosis family superfamily member 4 (TNFSF4) gene, as a lupus susceptibility gene in Northern Europeans. A major obstacle in pinpointing the marker(s) at TNFSF4 which best explain the risk of SLE has been the strong correlation (linkage disequilibrium, LD) between adjacent markers across the TNFSF4 region in this population. To address this, we have typed polymorphisms in several populations in addition to the European groups. The mixed ancestry of these populations gives a different LD pattern than that found in Europeans, presenting a method of pinpointing the section of the TNFSF4 region which results in SLE susceptibility. The Non-European populations have allowed identification of a polymorphism likely to regulate expression of TNFSF4 to increase susceptibility to SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003554
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
21.  Evaluation of TRAF6 in a Large Multi-Ancestral Lupus Cohort 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1960-1969.
Objective
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease with significant immune system aberrations resulting from complex heritable genetics as well as environmental factors. TRAF6 is a candidate gene for SLE, which has a major role in several signaling pathways that are important for immunity and organ development.
Methods
Fifteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), across TRAF6 were evaluated in 7,490 SLE and 6,780 control subjects from different ancestries. Population-based case-control association analyses and meta-analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Results
Evidence of associations in multiple SNPs was detected. The best overall p values were obtained for SNPs rs5030437 and rs4755453 (p=7.85×10−5 and p=4.73×10−5, respectively) without significant heterogeneity among populations (p=0.67 and p=0.50 in Q-statistic). In addition, rs540386 previously reported to be associated with RA was found to be in LD with these two SNPs (r2= 0.95) and demonstrated evidence of association with SLE in the same direction (meta-analysis p=9.15×10−4, OR=0.89, 95%CI=0.83–0.95). Thrombocytopenia improved the overall results in different populations (meta-analysis p=1.99×10−6, OR=0.57, 95%CI=0.45–0.72, for rs5030470). Finally evidence of family based association in 34 African-American pedigrees with the presence of thrombocytopenia were detected in one available SNP rs5030437 with Z score magnitude of 2.28 (p=0.02) under a dominant model.
Conclusion
Our data indicate the presence of association of TRAF6 with SLE in agreement with the previous report of association with RA. These data provide further support for the involvement of TRAF6 in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.
doi:10.1002/art.34361
PMCID: PMC3380425  PMID: 22231568
TRAF6; polymorphism; systemic lupus erythematosus
22.  Analysis of autosomal genes reveals gene–sex interactions and higher total genetic risk in men with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(5):694-699.
Objectives
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a sexually dimorphic autoimmune disease which is more common in women, but affected men often experience a more severe disease. The genetic basis of sexual dimorphism in SLE is not clearly defined. A study was undertaken to examine sex-specific genetic effects among SLE susceptibility loci.
Methods
A total of 18 autosomal genetic susceptibility loci for SLE were genotyped in a large set of patients with SLE and controls of European descent, consisting of 5932 female and 1495 male samples. Sex-specific genetic association analyses were performed. The sex–gene interaction was further validated using parametric and nonparametric methods. Aggregate differences in sex-specific genetic risk were examined by calculating a cumulative genetic risk score for SLE in each individual and comparing the average genetic risk between male and female patients.
Results
A significantly higher cumulative genetic risk for SLE was observed in men than in women. (P = 4.52×10−8) A significant sex–gene interaction was seen primarily in the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) region but also in IRF5, whereby men with SLE possess a significantly higher frequency of risk alleles than women. The genetic effect observed in KIAA1542 is specific to women with SLE and does not seem to have a role in men.
Conclusions
The data indicate that men require a higher cumulative genetic load than women to develop SLE. These observations suggest that sex bias in autoimmunity could be influenced by autosomal genetic susceptibility loci.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200385
PMCID: PMC3324666  PMID: 22110124
23.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003336
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
24.  Admixture Mapping in Lupus Identifies Multiple Functional Variants within IFIH1 Associated with Apoptosis, Inflammation, and Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003222.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component. African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of SLE, but the genetic basis of this risk is largely unknown. To identify causal variants in SLE loci in AA, we performed admixture mapping followed by fine mapping in AA and European-Americans (EA). Through genome-wide admixture mapping in AA, we identified a strong SLE susceptibility locus at 2q22–24 (LOD = 6.28), and the admixture signal is associated with the European ancestry (ancestry risk ratio ∼1.5). Large-scale genotypic analysis on 19,726 individuals of African and European ancestry revealed three independently associated variants in the IFIH1 gene: an intronic variant, rs13023380 [Pmeta = 5.20×10−14; odds ratio, 95% confidence interval = 0.82 (0.78–0.87)], and two missense variants, rs1990760 (Ala946Thr) [Pmeta = 3.08×10−7; 0.88 (0.84–0.93)] and rs10930046 (Arg460His) [Pdom = 1.16×10−8; 0.70 (0.62–0.79)]. Both missense variants produced dramatic phenotypic changes in apoptosis and inflammation-related gene expression. We experimentally validated function of the intronic SNP by DNA electrophoresis, protein identification, and in vitro protein binding assays. DNA carrying the intronic risk allele rs13023380 showed reduced binding efficiency to a cellular protein complex including nucleolin and lupus autoantigen Ku70/80, and showed reduced transcriptional activity in vivo. Thus, in SLE patients, genetic susceptibility could create a biochemical imbalance that dysregulates nucleolin, Ku70/80, or other nucleic acid regulatory proteins. This could promote antibody hypermutation and auto-antibody generation, further destabilizing the cellular network. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
Author Summary
African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the genetic basis of this risk increase is largely unknown. We used admixture mapping to localize disease-causing genetic variants that differ in frequency across populations. This approach is advantageous for localizing susceptibility genes in recently admixed populations like AA. Our genome-wide admixture scan identified seven admixture signals, and we followed the best signal at 2q22–24 with fine-mapping, imputation-based association analysis and experimental validation. We identified two independent coding variants and a non-coding variant within the IFIH1 gene associated with SLE. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003222
PMCID: PMC3575474  PMID: 23441136
25.  Evidence for gene-gene epistatic interactions among susceptibility loci for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(2):485-492.
Objective
Several confirmed genetic susceptibility loci for lupus have been described. To date, no clear evidence for genetic epistasis is established in lupus. We test for gene-gene interactions in a number of known lupus susceptibility loci.
Methods
Eighteen SNPs tagging independent and confirmed lupus susceptibility loci were genotyped in a set of 4,248 lupus patients and 3,818 normal healthy controls of European descent. Epistasis was tested using a 2-step approach utilizing both parametric and non-parametric methods. The false discovery rate (FDR) method was used to correct for multiple testing.
Results
We detected and confirmed gene-gene interactions between the HLA region and CTLA4, IRF5, and ITGAM, and between PDCD1 and IL21 in lupus patients. The most significant interaction detected by parametric analysis was between rs3131379 in the HLA region and rs231775 in CTLA4 (Interaction odds ratio=1.19, z-score= 3.95, P= 7.8×10−5 (FDR≤0.05), PMDR= 5.9×10−45). Importantly, our data suggest that in lupus patients the presence of the HLA lupus-risk alleles in rs1270942 and rs3131379 increases the odds of also carrying the lupus-risk allele in IRF5 (rs2070197) by 17% and 16%, respectively (P= 0.0028 and 0.0047).
Conclusion
We provide evidence for gene-gene epistasis in systemic lupus erythematosus. These findings support a role for genetic interaction contributing to the complexity of lupus heritability.
doi:10.1002/art.33354
PMCID: PMC3268866  PMID: 21952918

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