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1.  A high resolution HLA and SNP haplotype map for disease association studies in the extended human MHC 
Nature genetics  2006;38(10):1166-1172.
The proteins encoded by the classical HLA class I and class II genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are highly polymorphic and play an essential role in self/non-self immune recognition. HLA variation is a crucial determinant of transplant rejection and susceptibility to a large number of infectious and autoimmune disease1. Yet identification of causal variants is problematic due to linkage disequilibrium (LD) that extends across multiple HLA and non-HLA genes in the MHC2,3. We therefore set out to characterize the LD patterns between the highly polymorphic HLA genes and background variation by typing the classical HLA genes and >7,500 common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and deletion/insertion polymorphisms (DIPs) across four population samples. The analysis provides informative tag SNPs that capture some of the variation in the MHC region and that could be used in initial disease association studies, and provides new insight into the evolutionary dynamics and ancestral origins of the HLA loci and their haplotypes.
PMCID: PMC2670196  PMID: 16998491
2.  Defining the Role of the MHC in Autoimmunity: A Review and Pooled Analysis 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(4):e1000024.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is one of the most extensively studied regions in the human genome because of the association of variants at this locus with autoimmune, infectious, and inflammatory diseases. However, identification of causal variants within the MHC for the majority of these diseases has remained difficult due to the great variability and extensive linkage disequilibrium (LD) that exists among alleles throughout this locus, coupled with inadequate study design whereby only a limited subset of about 20 from a total of approximately 250 genes have been studied in small cohorts of predominantly European origin. We have performed a review and pooled analysis of the past 30 years of research on the role of the MHC in six genetically complex disease traits – multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes (T1D), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn's disease (CD), and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – in order to consolidate and evaluate the current literature regarding MHC genetics in these common autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. We corroborate established MHC disease associations and identify predisposing variants that previously have not been appreciated. Furthermore, we find a number of interesting commonalities and differences across diseases that implicate both general and disease-specific pathogenetic mechanisms in autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2291482  PMID: 18437207
3.  Identification of Two Independent Risk Factors for Lupus within the MHC in United Kingdom Families 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(11):e192.
The association of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) with SLE is well established yet the causal variants arising from this region remain to be identified, largely due to inadequate study design and the strong linkage disequilibrium demonstrated by genes across this locus. The majority of studies thus far have identified strong association with classical class II alleles, in particular HLA-DRB1*0301 and HLA-DRB1*1501. Additional associations have been reported with class III alleles; specifically, complement C4 null alleles and a tumor necrosis factor promoter SNP (TNF-308G/A). However, the relative effects of these class II and class III variants have not been determined. We have thus used a family-based approach to map association signals across the MHC class II and class III regions in a cohort of 314 complete United Kingdom Caucasian SLE trios by typing tagging SNPs together with classical typing of the HLA-DRB1 locus. Using TDT and conditional regression analyses, we have demonstrated the presence of two distinct and independent association signals in SLE: HLA-DRB1*0301 (nominal p = 4.9 × 10−8, permuted p < 0.0001, OR = 2.3) and the T allele of SNP rs419788 (nominal p = 4.3 × 10−8, permuted p < 0.0001, OR = 2.0) in intron 6 of the class III region gene SKIV2L. Assessment of genotypic risk demonstrates a likely dominant model of inheritance for HLA-DRB1*0301, while rs419788-T confers susceptibility in an additive manner. Furthermore, by comparing transmitted and untransmitted parental chromosomes, we have delimited our class II signal to a 180 kb region encompassing the alleles HLA-DRB1*0301-HLA-DQA1*0501-HLA-DQB1*0201 alone. Our class III signal importantly excludes independent association at the TNF promoter polymorphism, TNF-308G/A, in our SLE cohort and provides a potentially novel locus for future genetic and functional studies.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues, causing inflammation in a variety of different organs such as the skin, joints, and kidneys. The cause of lupus is not known, but genes play a significant role in the predisposition to disease. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on Chromosome 6 contains at least 100 different genes that affect the immune system, including the genes with the strongest effect on lupus susceptibility. Despite the importance of the MHC in SLE, the identity of the actual genes in the MHC region that cause SLE has remained elusive. In the present study, we used the latest set of genetic markers present at the MHC in lupus families to identify the actual genes that affect the disease. To our knowledge, we have shown for the first time that two separate groups of genes are involved in SLE. One group of genes alters how the immune system may inappropriately target its own tissues in the disease. How the second set of genes predisposes to SLE is the subject of ongoing study.
PMCID: PMC2065882  PMID: 17997607
4.  Early Myocardial Function Affects Endocardial Cushion Development in Zebrafish 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(5):e129.
Function of the heart begins long before its formation is complete. Analyses in mouse and zebrafish have shown that myocardial function is not required for early steps of organogenesis, such as formation of the heart tube or chamber specification. However, whether myocardial function is required for later steps of cardiac development, such as endocardial cushion (EC) formation, has not been established. Recent technical advances and approaches have provided novel inroads toward the study of organogenesis, allowing us to examine the effects of both genetic and pharmacological perturbations of myocardial function on EC formation in zebrafish. To address whether myocardial function is required for EC formation, we examined silent heart (sih−/−) embryos, which lack a heartbeat due to mutation of cardiac troponin T (tnnt2), and observed that atrioventricular (AV) ECs do not form. Likewise, we determined that cushion formation is blocked in cardiofunk (cfk−/−) embryos, which exhibit cardiac dilation and no early blood flow. In order to further analyze the heart defects in cfk−/− embryos, we positionally cloned cfk and show that it encodes a novel sarcomeric actin expressed in the embryonic myocardium. The Cfks11 variant exhibits a change in a universally conserved residue (R177H). We show that in yeast this mutation negatively affects actin polymerization. Because the lack of cushion formation in sih- and cfk-mutant embryos could be due to reduced myocardial function and/or lack of blood flow, we approached this question pharmacologically and provide evidence that reduction in myocardial function is primarily responsible for the defect in cushion development. Our data demonstrate that early myocardial function is required for later steps of organogenesis and suggest that myocardial function, not endothelial shear stress, is the major epigenetic factor controlling late heart development. Based on these observations, we postulate that defects in cardiac morphogenesis may be secondary to mutations affecting early myocardial function, and that, in humans, mutations affecting embryonic myocardial function may be responsible for structural congenital heart disease.
Cardiac anomolies can result from very early defects in heart development. In zebrafish, such defects have been shown to be caused by a new gene called cardiofunk
PMCID: PMC406391  PMID: 15138499

Results 1-4 (4)