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author:("Conn, dot L.")
1.  The HLA–DRB1 Shared Epitope Is Associated With Susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans Through European Genetic Admixture 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):349-358.
Objective
To determine whether shared epitope (SE)–containing HLA–DRB1 alleles are associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in African Americans and whether their presence is associated with higher degrees of global (genome-wide) genetic admixture from the European population.
Methods
In this multicenter cohort study, African Americans with early RA and matched control subjects were analyzed. In addition to measurement of serum anti–cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies and HLA–DRB1 genotyping, a panel of >1,200 ancestry-informative markers was analyzed in patients with RA and control subjects, to estimate the proportion of European ancestry.
Results
The frequency of SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles was 25.2% in African American patients with RA versus 13.6% in control subjects (P = 0.00005). Of 321 patients with RA, 42.1% had at least 1 SE-containing allele, compared with 25.3% of 166 control subjects (P = 0.0004). The mean estimated percent European ancestry was associated with SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles in African Americans, regardless of disease status (RA or control). As reported in RA patients of European ancestry, there was a significant association of the SE with the presence of the anti-CCP antibody: 86 (48.9%) of 176 patients with anti-CCP antibody–positive RA had at least 1 SE allele, compared with 36 (32.7%) of 110 patients with anti-CCP antibody–negative RA (P = 0.01, by chi-square test).
Conclusion
HLA–DRB1 alleles containing the SE are strongly associated with susceptibility to RA in African Americans. The absolute contribution is less than that reported in RA among populations of European ancestry, in which ~50–70% of patients have at least 1 SE allele. As in Europeans with RA, the SE association was strongest in the subset of African American patients with anti-CCP antibodies. The finding of a higher degree of European ancestry among African Americans with SE alleles suggests that a genetic risk factor for RA was introduced into the African American population through admixture, thus making these individuals more susceptible to subsequent environmental or unknown factors that trigger the disease.
doi:10.1002/art.23166
PMCID: PMC3726059  PMID: 18240241
2.  ASSOCIATIONS OF ALCOHOL USE WITH RADIOGRAPHIC DISEASE PROGRESSION IN AFRICAN AMERICANS WITH RECENT ONSET RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(9):1498-1504.
Objective
To investigate the associations of alcohol consumption and radiographic disease progression in African Americans with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
RA patients included in the study were participants in the Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) registry. Patients were categorized based on self-reported alcohol consumption; those consuming < 15 beverages per month versus those with ≥ 15 per month. Association of radiographic disease progression over a one to three year period of observation with alcohol consumption was evaluated using multivariate generalized estimating equations.
Results
There were 166 patients included in the study, 39% reported that they had never consumed alcohol. Of the 61% who had consumed alcohol, 73% reported that they on average consumed less than 15 alcoholic beverages per month and 27% reported consuming ≥ 15 per month. In multivariate analysis, consumption of ≥ 15 alcoholic beverages per month was associated with an increased risk of radiographic disease progression (p = 0.017). There was no evidence of a relationship in those consuming < 15 beverages per month (p = 0.802).
Conclusion
There appears to be a dose-dependent relationship between alcohol use and radiographic disease progression in RA. Individuals who consume 15 or more alcoholic beverages per month may have accelerated rates of radiographic joint damage than with lower levels of consumption.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.121325
PMCID: PMC4026220  PMID: 23772080
Rheumatoid Arthritis; alcohol consumption; disease severity; disease activity
3.  Comparison of the Disease Activity Score using Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate and C-reactive Protein in African-Americans with Rheumatoid Arthritis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(11):1812-1822.
INTRODUCTION
The Disease Activity Score based on 28 joints (DAS28) has been increasingly used in clinical practice and research studies of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Studies have reported discordance between DAS28 based on erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) versus C-reactive protein (CRP) in RA patients. However such comparison is lacking in African-Americans with RA.
METHODS
This analysis included participants from the Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) Registry which enrolls self-declared African-Americans with RA. Using tender and swollen joint counts separate ESR-based and CRP-based DAS28 scores (DAS28-ESR3 and DAS28-CRP3) were calculated, as were DAS28-ESR4 and DAS28-CRP4, which included the patient’s assessment of disease activity. The scores were compared using paired t-test, simple agreement and kappa, correlation coefficient and Bland-Altman plots.
RESULTS
Of the 233 included participants, 85% were women, mean age at enrollment was 52.6 years, and median disease duration at enrollment was 21 months. Mean DAS28-ESR3 was significantly higher than DAS28-CRP3 (4.8 vs. 3.9; p<0.001). Similarly, mean DAS28-ESR4 was significantly higher than DAS28-CRP4 (4.7 vs. 3.9; p<0.001). ESR-based DAS28 remained higher than CRP-based DAS28 even when stratified by age, sex, and disease duration. Overall agreement was not high between DAS28-ESR3 and DAS28-CRP3 (50%) or between DAS28-ESR4 and DAS28-CRP4 (59%). DAS28-CRP3 underestimated disease activity in 47% of the participants relative to DAS28-ESR3 and DAS28-CRP4 in 40% of the participants relative to DAS28-ESR4.
CONCLUSION
There was significant discordance between the ESR-based and CRP-based DAS28 which could impact clinical treatment decisions in African-Americans with RA.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.121225
PMCID: PMC3987124  PMID: 23950187
DAS28; Rheumatoid Arthritis; African-Americans
4.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in African Americans With Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis care & research  2014;66(2):180-189.
Objective.
Racial/ethnic differences with regard to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use have been reported in the US. However, specific details of CAM use by African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are lacking.
Methods.
Data were collected from African Americans with RA enrolled in a multicenter registry regarding the use of CAM, including food supplements, topical applications, activities, and alternative care providers. Factors associated with CAM use by sex and disease duration were assessed using t-test, Wilcoxon’s rank sum test, chi-square test, and logistic regression analyses.
Results.
Of the 855 participants, 85% were women and mean age at enrollment was 54 years. Overall, ever using any of the CAM treatments, activities, and providers was 95%, 98%, and 51%, respectively (median of 3 for number of treatments, median of 5 for activities, and median of 1 for providers). Those with longer disease duration (>2 years) were significantly more likely (odds ratio >2.0, P < 0.05) to use raisins soaked in vodka/gin, to take fish oils, or to drink alcoholic beverages for RA treatment than those with early disease. As compared to men, women were significantly (P < 0.05) more likely to pray/attend church, write in a journal, and use biofeedback, but were less likely to smoke tobacco or topically apply household oils for treatment of RA.
Conclusion.
CAM use was highly prevalent in this cohort, even in individuals with early disease. Health care providers need to be aware of CAM use as some treatments may potentially have interactions with conventional medicines. This could be important within this cohort of African Americans, where racial disparities are known to affect access to conventional care.
doi:10.1002/acr.22148
PMCID: PMC3977347  PMID: 23983105
5.  Most Common SNPs Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis in Subjects of European Ancestry Confer Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis in African-Americans 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2010;62(12):3547-3553.
Objective
Large-scale genetic association studies have identified over 20 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk alleles among individuals of European ancestry. The influence of these risk alleles has not been comprehensively studied in African-Americans. We therefore sought to examine whether these validated RA risk alleles are associated with RA in an African-American population.
Methods
27 candidate SNPs were genotyped in 556 autoantibody-positive African-Americans with RA and 791 healthy African-American controls. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for each SNP were compared to previously published ORs of RA patients of European ancestry. We then calculated a composite Genetic Risk Score (GRS) for each individual based on the sum of all risk alleles.
Results
There was overlap in the OR and 95% CI between the European and African-American populations in 24 of the 27 candidate SNPs. Conversely, 3 of the 27 SNPs (CCR6 rs3093023, TAGAP rs394581, TNFAIP3 rs6920220) demonstrated an OR in the opposite direction from those reported in RA patients of European ancestry. The GRS analysis indicated a small but highly significant probability that African-American cases were enriched for the European RA risk alleles relative to controls (p=0.00005).
Conclusion
The majority of RA risk alleles previously validated among European ancestry RA patients showed similar ORs in our population of African-Americans with RA. Furthermore, the aggregate GRS supports the hypothesis that these SNPs are risk alleles for RA in the African-American population. Future large-scale genetic studies are needed to validate these risk alleles and identify novel risk alleles for RA in African-Americans.
doi:10.1002/art.27732
PMCID: PMC3030622  PMID: 21120996
6.  A Functional RANKL Polymorphism Associated with Younger Age at Onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(10):2864-2875.
Objective
We previously reported association of co-occurrence of HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) and RANKL SNPs with younger age of RA onset in 182 rheumatoid factor positive (RF) European American (EA) early RA patients. Here, we fine-mapped the 48 kb RANKL region in the extended 210 EA RF-positive early RA cohort, sought replication of RA-associated SNPs in additional 501 EA and 298 African-Americans (AA) RA cohorts, and explored functional consequences of RA-associated SNPs.
Methods
SNP genotyping was conducted using pyrosequencing or TaqMan PCR assays. Associations of rs7984870 with RANKL expression in plasma, PBMC and isolated T cells were quantified using ELISA and RT-PCR. Site-directed mutagenesis of rs7984870 within the 2kb RANKL promoter was performed to drive the luciferase reporter gene in osteoblast and stromal cell lines. Interaction of DNA and protein was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay.
Results
A single promoter SNP rs7984870 was consistently significantly associated with earlier age of RA onset in 3 independent seropositive (RF or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody positive) RA cohorts but not in seronegative RA patients. The risk C allele of rs7984870 conferred 2-fold higher plasma RANKL levels in RF-positive RA patients, significantly elevated RANKL mRNA expression in activated normal T cells, and increased promoter activity after stimulation in vitro via differential binding to transcription factor SOX5.
Conclusion
The RANKL promoter allele that increased transcriptional levels upon stimulation might promote interaction between activated T cells and dendritic cells, predisposing to younger RA onset in seropositive EA and/or AA individuals.
doi:10.1002/art.27589
PMCID: PMC2944013  PMID: 20533289
7.  Vitamin D status and its associations with disease activity and severity in African Americans with recent onset rheumatoid arthritis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2009;37(2):275-281.
Objective
To examine the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and the associations of vitamin D concentration with disease status in African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
Study participants (n = 266) were enrolled in the Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African Americans with Early RA (CLEAR) Registry. 25(OH)-D was measured on baseline plasma and associations of 25(OH)-D with disease status (baseline and at 3 years disease duration) were examined using univariate and multivariate regression.
Results
The prevalence of 25(OH)-D insufficiency (≤ 37.5 nmol/L or 15 ng/ml) was 50%, with the highest prevalence in winter. In unadjusted analyses, vitamin D concentrations were inversely associated with baseline pain (p = 0.04), swollen joints (p = 0.04), and Disease Activity Score (DAS-28, p = 0.05) but not with measures at 3 years disease duration. There were no multivariate associations of 25(OH)-D with any disease measures at baseline or at 3 years with the exception of a positive borderline association with rheumatoid factor positivity at enrollment (p = 0.05).
Conclusions
Vitamin D insufficiency is common in African Americans with recent-onset RA. Unadjusted associations of circulating vitamin D with baseline pain, swollen joints, and DAS-28 were explained by differences in season, age, and gender and were not significant in multivariate analyses. In contrast to reports of Northern Europeans with early inflammatory arthritis, there are not strong associations of 25(OH)-D concentration with symptoms or disease severity in African Americans with RA.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.090705
PMCID: PMC3133625  PMID: 20032100
rheumatoid arthritis; vitamin D; African American; disease activity; severity
9.  Radiographic Severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis in African-Americans: Results from the CLEAR Registry 
Arthritis care & research  2010;62(5):624-631.
Objective
To describe radiographic changes in African-Americans with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from the CLEAR (Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluation of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis) Registry, a multicenter observational study.
Methods
Self-declared African-American patients, were enrolled in CLEAR I, a longitudinal cohort of early RA (disease duration <2 years) from 2000 to 2005; or in CLEAR II, a cross-sectional cohort (any disease duration), from 2006 to the present. Demographic and clinical data were obtained, and sets of hand/wrist and foot radiographs were scored using the modified Sharp/van der Heijde scoring system.
Results
A total of 357 and 418 patients, respectively, have been enrolled into CLEAR I and CLEAR II. We report here an interim analysis of radiographic severity in these patients. For the CLEAR I cohort, 294 patients had a mean radiographic score of 2.89 at the baseline visit; 32.0% showed either erosions (25.9%) or joint space narrowing (JSN) (19.4%). At the 36-month visit the mean score was 5.65; 44.2% had erosions, 41.5% JSN and 55.4% had either. Among those patients without radiographic damage at baseline, 18.9% had progressed at the 36-month visit, compared to 57.1% of those with baseline damage (p<0.0001). For the CLEAR II cohort, 167 patients with RA of any duration, 65.3% exhibited joint erosions, 65.3% JSN and 74.8% exhibited either. The mean radiographic score was 33.42.
Conclusion
This is the largest radiographic study of African American RA patients. Damage occurs early in the disease and is associated with radiographic progression at 3 years of disease duration. The CLEAR Registry will provide a valuable resource for future analyses of genetic, clinical, and environmental factors associated with radiographic severity of RA in African-Americans.
doi:10.1002/acr.20040
PMCID: PMC3052790  PMID: 20461784
10.  Association of IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms with rheumatoid nodules in African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis 
Introduction
To determine whether IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs1805010 (I50V) and rs1801275 (Q551R), which have been associated with disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients of European ancestry, relate to the presence of rheumatoid nodules and radiographic erosions in African Americans.
Methods
Two IL4R SNPs, rs1805010 and rs1801275, were genotyped in 749 patients from the Consortium for Longitudinal Evaluation of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) registries. End points were rheumatoid nodules defined as present either by physical examination or by chest radiography and radiographic erosions (radiographs of hands/wrists and feet were scored using the modified Sharp/van der Heijde system). Statistical analyses were performed by using logistic regression modeling adjusted for confounding factors.
Results
Of the 749 patients with RA, 156 (20.8%) had rheumatoid nodules, with a mean age of 47.0 years, 84.6% female gender, and median disease duration of 1.9 years. Of the 461 patients with available radiographic data, 185 (40.1%) had erosions (score >0); their mean age was 46.7 years; 83.3% were women; and median disease duration was 1.5 years. Patients positive for HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) and autoantibodies (rheumatoid factor (RF) or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP)) had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in the presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (odds ratio (OR)adj = 8.08 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.60-40.89), P = 0.01 and ORadj = 2.97 (95% CI, 1.08 to 8.17), P = 0.04, respectively). Likewise, patients positive for the HLA-DRB1 SE and RF alone had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (ORadj = 8.45 (95% CI, 1.57 to 45.44), P = 0.01, and ORadj = 3.57 (95% CI, 1.18 to 10.76), P = 0.02, respectively) and in the presence of AA allele of rs1805010 (ORadj = 4.52 (95% CI, 1.20 to 17.03), P = 0.03). No significant association was found between IL4R and radiographic erosions or disease susceptibility, although our statistical power was limited by relatively small numbers of cases and controls.
Conclusions
We found that IL4R SNPs, rs1801275 and rs1805010, are associated with rheumatoid nodules in autoantibody-positive African-American RA patients with at least one HLA-DRB1 allele encoding the SE. These findings highlight the need for analysis of genetic factors associated with clinical RA phenotypes in different racial/ethnic populations.
doi:10.1186/ar2994
PMCID: PMC2911851  PMID: 20444266
12.  Cigarette smoking, disease severity, and autoantibody expression in African Americans with recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2008;67(11):1529-1534.
Objective
To examine the association of smoking with clinical and serologic features in African Americans with recent-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to explore whether this association is dependent on the presence of the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE).
Methods
In African Americans with recent-onset RA (n = 300), we examined the association of cigarette smoking (current vs. past vs. never and pack-years of exposure) with anti-CCP antibody, rheumatoid factor (RF) (-IgM and -IgA), rheumatoid nodules, and baseline radiographic erosions using logistic and cumulative logistic regression (adjusting for SE status). We also examined for evidence of interaction between smoking status and SE for all outcomes.
Results
Although there was no association with RF-IgA seropositivity, current smokers were approximately twice as likely as never smokers to have higher IgA-RF concentrations (based on tertiles; OR = 1.74; 95% CI 1.05–2.88) and nodules (OR = 2.43; 95% CI 1.13–5.22). These associations were most pronounced in those with more than 20 pack-years of exposure. There was no association of smoking status or cumulative tobacco exposure with anti-CCP antibody, IgM-RF, or radiographic erosions. There was also no evidence of a biologic or statistical SE-smoking interaction for any of the outcomes examined.
Conclusion
This is the first study to systematically examine the association of cigarette smoking with RA-related features in African Americans. Cigarette smoking is associated with both subcutaneous nodules and higher serum concentrations of IgA-RF in African Americans with RA, associations that may have important implications for long-term outcomes in this population.
doi:10.1136/ard.2007.082669
PMCID: PMC2731992  PMID: 18198196
rheumatoid arthritis; African Americans; cigarette smoking; rheumatoid factor; anti-CCP antibody
13.  An African Ancestry-Specific Allele of CTLA4 Confers Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000424.
Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA4) is a negative regulator of T-cell proliferation. Polymorphisms in CTLA4 have been inconsistently associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in populations of European ancestry but have not been examined in African Americans. The prevalence of RA in most populations of European and Asian ancestry is ∼1.0%; RA is purportedly less common in black Africans, with little known about its prevalence in African Americans. We sought to determine if CTLA4 polymorphisms are associated with RA in African Americans. We performed a 2-stage analysis of 12 haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across CTLA4 in a total of 505 African American RA patients and 712 African American controls using Illumina and TaqMan platforms. The minor allele (G) of the rs231778 SNP was 0.054 in RA patients, compared to 0.209 in controls (4.462×10−26, Fisher's exact). The presence of the G allele was associated with a substantially reduced odds ratio (OR) of having RA (AG+GG genotypes vs. AA genotype, OR 0.19, 95% CI: 0.13–0.26, p = 2.4×10−28, Fisher's exact), suggesting a protective effect. This SNP is polymorphic in the African population (minor allele frequency [MAF] 0.09 in the Yoruba population), but is very rare in other groups (MAF = 0.002 in 530 Caucasians genotyped for this study). Markers associated with RA in populations of European ancestry (rs3087243 [+60C/T] and rs231775 [+49A/G]) were not replicated in African Americans. We found no confounding of association for rs231778 after stratifying for the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope, presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody, or degree of admixture from the European population. An African ancestry-specific genetic variant of CTLA4 appears to be associated with protection from RA in African Americans. This finding may explain, in part, the relatively low prevalence of RA in black African populations.
Author Summary
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune condition affecting the synovial membranes of diarthrodial joints. The etiology of RA is unclear but is thought to result from an environmental trigger in the context of genetic predisposition. We report that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs231778) in CTLA4, which encodes a negative regulator of T cell activation, is associated (p = 2.4×10−28) with protection from developing RA among African Americans. rs231778 is only polymorphic in populations of African ancestry. Protective alleles such as this one may contribute to the purported lower prevalence of RA in African Americans. Our finding appears to be independent from confounding by linkage with the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope or by genetic admixture. Furthermore, we did not replicate associations of CTLA4 SNPs with RA or other autoimmune diseases previously reported in Asians and Caucasians, such as rs3087243 (+60C/T) and rs231775 (+49A/G). The associations of different SNPs with RA susceptibility specific to different populations highlight the importance of CTLA4 in the pathogenesis of RA and demonstrate the ethnic-specific genetic background that contributes to its susceptibility.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000424
PMCID: PMC2652071  PMID: 19300490

Results 1-13 (13)