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The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(9):1498-1504.
To investigate the associations of alcohol consumption and radiographic disease progression in African Americans with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC4026220  PMID: 23772080
Rheumatoid Arthritis; alcohol consumption; disease severity; disease activity
2.  Porphyromonas gingivalis and Disease-Related Autoantibodies in Individuals at Increased Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):10.1002/art.34595.
To examine the relationship of Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) with the presence of autoantibodies in individuals at risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Participants included: 1) a cohort enriched with HLA-DR4 and 2) those at risk for RA by virtue of having a first-degree relative with RA. None satisfied 1987 ACR RA classification criteria. Autoantibodies measured included anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) and rheumatoid factor (RF; nephelometry, IgA, IgM, IgG). Individuals were considered autoantibody positive (n = 113) with ≥ 1 positive autoantibody with individuals further categorized as `high-risk' (n = 38; positive ACPA or ≥ 2 RF assays). Autoantibody negative individuals served as comparators (n = 171). Antibody to Pg, P. intermedia (Pi), and F. nucleatum (Fn) were measured. Associations of bacterial antibodies with group status were examined using logistic regression.
Anti-Pg concentrations were higher in high-risk (p = 0.011) and autoantibody positive group (p = 0.010) than in the autoantibody negative group. There were no group differences in anti-Pi or anti-Fn concentrations. After multivariable adjustment, anti-Pg concentrations (but not anti-Pi or anti-Fn) were significantly associated with autoantibody positive and high-risk status (p < 0.05).
Immunity to Pg, but not Pi or Fn, is significantly associated with the presence of RA-related autoantibodies in individuals at risk for RA. These results support the hypothesis that infection with Pg may play a central role in the early loss of tolerance to self-antigens in RA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3467347  PMID: 22736291
rheumatoid arthritis; periodontitis; Porphyromonas gingivalis; Prevotella intermedia; Fusobacterium nucleatum; rheumatoid factor; anti-citrullinated protein antibody
3.  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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC3726059  PMID: 18240241
4.  Interactions of Cigarette Smoking with NAT2 Polymorphisms Impact Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk in African Americans 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(3):655-664.
To examine whether polymorphisms in genes coding for drug metabolizing enzymes (DMEs) impact rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk due to cigarette smoking in African Americans.
Smoking status was evaluated in African American RA cases and non-RA controls categorized as heavy (≥ 10 pack-years) vs. other. Individuals were genotyped for a homozygous deletion polymorphism in glutathione S-transferase Mu-1 (GSTM1-null) in addition to tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in N-acetyltransferase (NAT)1, NAT2, and epoxide hydrolase (EPXH1). Associations of genotypes with RA were examined using logistic regression and gene-smoking interactions were assessed.
There were no significant associations of any DME genotype with RA. After adjustment for multiple comparisons, there were significant additive interactions between heavy smoking and NAT2 SNPs rs9987109 (Padd = 0.000003) and rs1208 (Padd = 0.00001); attributable proportions (APs) due to interaction ranged from 0.61 to 0.67. None of the multiplicative gene-smoking interactions examined remained significant after adjustment for multiple testing in overall disease risk. There was no evidence of significant gene-smoking interactions in analyses of GSTM1-null, NAT1, or EPXH1. DME gene-smoking interactions were similar when cases were limited to anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) positive individuals.
Among African Americans, RA risk imposed by heavy smoking appears to be mediated in part by genetic variation in NAT2. While further studies are needed to elucidate mechanisms underpinning these interactions, these SNPs appear to identify African American smokers at a much higher risk for RA with relative risks that are at least two-fold higher compared to non-smokers lacking these risk alleles.
PMCID: PMC3272109  PMID: 21989592
rheumatoid arthritis; African Americans; cigarette smoking; anti-CCP antibody; drug metabolizing enzyme; N-acetyltransferase; epoxide hydrolase; glutathione S-transferase
5.  Associations of disease activity and treatments with mortality in men with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the VARA registry 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2010;50(1):101-109.
Objectives. To examine the all-cause mortality rate and factors associated with mortality in US veteran men with RA.
Methods. Men with RA were enrolled and followed until death or censoring. Vital status was ascertained through systematic record review and standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated using US life tables for men. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression was used to examine the independent associations of patient factors including socio-demographics, comorbidity, measures of RA disease activity/severity and medication use with mortality. Measures of RA disease activity and medications were examined as time-varying factors.
Results. A total of 138 deaths were observed during 2314 patient-years of follow-up (n = 1015 patients), corresponding to a crude morality rate of 5.9 deaths per 100 patient-years (95% CI 5.0, 7.0) and an SMR of 2.1 (95% CI 1.8, 2.5). After multivariate adjustment, factors independently associated with higher mortality risk in men with RA included older age, Caucasian race, low body weight, an increased frequency of rheumatology visits, higher ESR and RF concentrations, increased DAS28, subcutaneous nodules and prednisone use. In contrast, MTX use [hazard ratio (HR) 0.63; 95% CI 0.42, 0.96] was associated with ∼40% lower mortality risk.
Conclusion. Mortality rates among US male veterans with RA are more than twice those of age-matched men in the general population. These results suggest that optimizing disease control, particularly with regimens that include MTX and minimize glucocorticoid exposure, could improve long-term survival in this population.
PMCID: PMC3108313  PMID: 20659916
Rheumatoid arthritis; Mortality; US veterans; Men; MTX; Glucocorticoids
6.  Associations of cigarette smoking with rheumatoid arthritis in African Americans 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(12):3560-3568.
To examine the associations of cigarette smoking with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in African Americans and to determine to whether this association is impacted by HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE).
Smoking status, cumulative smoking exposure, and SE status were measured in African American patients with RA and in healthy controls. Associations of smoking with RA were examined using age- and gender-adjusted logistic regression. Additive and multiplicative SE-smoking interactions were examined.
After adjusting for age and gender, ever (OR = 1.45; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.97) and current smoking (OR = 1.56; 95% CI 1.07 to 2.26) were more common in African American RA cases (n = 605) than in controls (n = 255). The association of smoking with RA was limited to those with a cumulative exposure exceeding 10 pack-years, associations that were evident in both autoantibody positive and negative disease. There was evidence of a significant additive interaction between SE status and heavy smoking (≥ 10 pack-years) in RA risk (attributable proportion due to interaction [AP] of 0.58, p = 0.007) with an AP of 0.47 (p = 0.006) between SE status and ever smoking. There was no evidence of multiplicative interactions.
Among African Americans, cigarette smoking is associated not only with the risk of autoantibody positive RA but also with the risk of autoantibody negative disease. RA risk attributable to smoking is limited to African Americans with more than 10 pack-years of exposure and is more pronounced among individuals positive for HLA-DRB1 SE.
PMCID: PMC2995845  PMID: 20722010
rheumatoid arthritis; African Americans; cigarette smoking; rheumatoid factor; anti-CCP antibody; HLA-DRB1 shared epitope
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC3133625  PMID: 20032100
rheumatoid arthritis; vitamin D; African American; disease activity; severity
8.  The Link Between Periodontitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Periodontist’s Perspective 
In this review, we critically evaluate the case–control studies examining the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and periodontitis, two common chronic inflammatory diseases with a similar host-mediated pathogenesis. We review the “two-hit” periodontitis model that our group previously proposed, in which we elucidate how a systemic disease such as RA can potentially exacerbate or initiate periodontitis. Furthermore, we discuss adjunctive host modulation therapy, originally developed for periodontitis (i.e., subantimicrobial-dose doxycycline alone or in combination with an anti-inflammatory agent), to simultaneously mitigate RA and periodontitis. Finally, we review studies describing periodontal treatment effects on both RA disease activity measures and systemic inflammation. Current evidence suggests that an association exists between periodontitis and RA. Well-designed multicenter longitudinal clinical trials and studies with sufficient sample sizes are needed to ascertain the temporal relationship between these two diseases and whether periodontal treatment can reduce the severity of RA or prevent its onset.
PMCID: PMC4312393  PMID: 25657894
Rheumatoid arthritis; Periodontitis; Alveolar bone loss; Case–control studies; Subantimicrobial dose doxycycline
9.  Antibody responses to Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis 
Antibody titers to P. gingivalis are increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and are associated with disease-specific autoimmunity.
Periodontitis (PD) has been implicated as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We sought to characterize antibody titers to P. gingivalis (a pathogen in PD) in subjects with RA, PD, and in healthy controls and to examine their relationship with disease autoantibodies.
P. gingivalis antibody was measured in subjects with RA (n = 78), PD (n = 39), and in controls (n = 40). Group frequencies of bacterial titer elevations were compared using the Chi-square test and antibody titers were compared using non-parametric tests. Correlations of P. gingivalis titer with C-reactive protein (CRP), antibody to cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP), and rheumatoid factor (RF) were examined in those with RA while CRP and autoantibody concentrations were compared based on seropositivity to P. gingivalis.
Antibody titers to P. gingivalis were highest in PD, lowest in controls, and intermediate in RA (p = 0.0003). Elevations in P. gingivalis (titer ≥ 800) were more common in RA and PD (67% and 77%, respectively) than in controls (40%) (p = 0.002). In RA, there were significant correlations with P. gingivalis titer with CRP, anti-CCP-IgM, and -IgG-2. CRP (p = 0.006), anti-CCP-IgM (p = 0.01) and -IgG2 (p = 0.04) concentrations were higher in RA cases with P. gingivalis titers ≥ 800 compared to cases with titers < 800.
Antibodies to P. gingivalis are more common in RA subjects than controls, although lower than that in PD. Associations of P. gingivalis titers with RA-related autoantibody and CRP concentrations suggests that infection with this organism plays a role in disease risk and progression in RA.
PMCID: PMC2748386  PMID: 18848647
periodontitis; rheumatoid arthritis; Porphyromonas gingivalis; anti-CCP; rheumatoid factor
10.  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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2731992  PMID: 18198196
rheumatoid arthritis; African Americans; cigarette smoking; rheumatoid factor; anti-CCP antibody
11.  Relationship between air pollution and positivity of RA-related autoantibodies in individuals without established RA: a report on SERA 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;72(12):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202949.
Studies suggest that respiratory exposures including smoking, proximity to traffic and air pollution might be associated with development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA-related autoantibodies are predictive of the development of RA.
We evaluated the relationship between RA-related autoantibodies and exposure to particulate matter (PM), a measure of air pollution of interest to health, in individuals without RA.
The Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA) is a multicentre study following first-degree relatives (FDRs) of a proband with RA. FDRs are without the 1987 ACR (American College of Rheumatology) classifiable RA at enrolment and are followed for the development of RA-related autoimmunity. RA-related autoantibody outcomes as well as tender and swollen joint outcomes were assessed. Exposure to PM was assigned using ambient air pollution monitoring data and interpolated with inverse distance weighting spatial analyses using Geographic Information Systems. PM exposures were linked to FDR’s residential zip codes.
RA-related autoantibodies as well as tender or swollen joints are not associated with ambient PM concentrations.
While other respiratory exposures may be associated with increased risk of RA, our data suggest that ambient PM is not associated with autoantibodies and joint signs among individuals without RA, but at increased risk of developing RA.
PMCID: PMC3818364  PMID: 23572338
12.  Organic Dust, Lipopolysaccharide, and Peptidoglycan Inhalant Exposures Result in Bone Loss/Disease 
Skeletal health consequences associated with chronic inflammatory respiratory disease, and particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), contribute to overall disease morbidity. Agricultural environmental exposures induce significant airway diseases, including COPD. However, animal models to understand inhalant exposure–induced lung injury and bone disease have not been described. Using micro–computed tomography (micro-CT) imaging technology and histology, bone quantity and quality measurements were investigated in mice after repetitive intranasal inhalation exposures to complex organic dust extracts (ODEs) from swine confinement facilities. Comparison experiments with LPS and peptidoglycan (PGN) alone were also performed. After 3 weeks of repetitive ODE inhalation exposure, significant loss of bone mineral density and trabecular bone volume fraction was evident, with altered morphological microarchitecture changes in the trabecular bone, compared with saline-treated control animals. Torsional resistance was also significantly reduced. Compared with saline treatment, ODE-treated mice demonstrated decreased collagen and proteoglycan content in their articular cartilage, according to histopathology. Significant bone deterioration was also evident after repetitive intranasal inhalant treatment with LPS and PGN. These findings were not secondary to animal distress, and not entirely dependent on the degree of induced lung parenchymal inflammation. Repetitive LPS treatment demonstrated the most pronounced changes in bone parameters, and PGN treatment resulted in the greatest lung parenchymal inflammatory changes. Collectively, repetitive inhalation exposures to noninfectious inflammatory agents such as complex organic dust, LPS, and PGN resulted in bone loss. This animal model may contribute to efforts toward understanding the mechanisms and evaluating the therapeutics associated with adverse skeletal health consequences after subchronic airway injury.
PMCID: PMC3931104  PMID: 23782057
lung; inflammation; bone; imaging; bioaerosol
13.  Prevalence of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia among African Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Impact of Ethnic-Specific Normative Data 
Purpose: To examine the prevalence of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis among African Americans with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to assess the effect of using race/ethnicity-specific normative data.
Methods: Bone mineral density (BMD) of the hip and spine was assessed in African Americans with early RA. To examine the impact of using different normative data on disease classification, we calculated two sets of T scores, the first using sex-matched reference data from Caucasians and the second using data from African Americans. Osteoporosis was defined as a BMD at either site ≥2.5 SD below the young adult mean. Osteopenia was defined as a BMD ≥1 SD and <2.5 SD below this mean.
Results: Using Caucasian referent data, 33% (n=48) of patients had osteopenia or worse (n=48, 32.9%) and 5% (n=8) were osteoporotic. With the use of African-American normative data, 55% (n=94) were osteopenic or worse, and 16% (n=27) were osteoporotic.
Conclusion: African Americans with RA are at risk of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis. Different diagnostic classifications may occur in this population based solely on the normative data used for assessing fracture risk. These results underscore the need for a standardized approach in defining osteopenia and osteoporosis in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC1364462  PMID: 16173331
osteoporosis; osteopenia; African Americans; DXA; rheumatoid arthritis
14.  Folic acid pathway single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with methotrexate significant adverse events in United States veterans with rheumatoid arthritis 
Methotrexate (MTX) is the cornerstone medication in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We examined whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in enzymes of the folic acid pathway (folylpoly-gamma-glutamate synthetase [FPGS], gamma-glutamyl hydrolase [GGH], and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase [MTHFR]) associate with significant adverse events (SigAE).
Patients (n=319) enrolled in the Veterans Affairs RA (VARA) registry taking MTX were genotyped for HLA-DRB1-SE and the following SNPs: FPGS (rs7033913, rs10760503, rs10106), GGH (12548933, rs7010484, rs4617146, rs719235, rs11988534), MTHFR (rs1801131, rs1801133). AE were abstracted from the medical record using a structured instrument. SigAE were defined as an AE leading to MTX discontinuation. Covariates included: age, gender, race, RA antibody status, tobacco, RA disease duration between diagnosis and MTX course, Charlson-Deyo comorbidity index, glucocorticoids, use of prior RA medications, and mean 4-variable disease activity score. Cox regression was performed to determine factors associated with time-to-SigAE. A p-value ≤0.005 established significance in the final model.
The presence of ≥1 copy of the minor allele in MTHFR rs1801131 was associated with an increased hazard ratio (HR) of SigAE (HR 3.05, 95% CI 1.48–6.29, p-value 0.003 and HR 3.88, 95% CI 1.62–9.28, p-value 0.002 for heterozygotes and homozygotes for the minor allele, respectively). An interaction term, between FPGS rs7033913 heterozygotes and GGH rs11988534 homozygotes for the minor allele, had a p-value <0.0001.
RA subjects taking MTX may have decreased time-to-SigAE with ≥ 1 copy of the minor allele in MTHFR rs1801131. Further investigation is warranted, as these SNPs may indicate susceptibility to MTX toxicity.
PMCID: PMC4167828  PMID: 24447348
rheumatoid arthritis; polymorphism; single nucleotide; drug toxicity; methotrexate
15.  Unique Antibody Responses to Malondialdehyde-Acetaldehyde (MAA)-Protein Adducts Predict Coronary Artery Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107440.
Malondialdehyde-acetaldehyde adducts (MAA) have been implicated in atherosclerosis. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of MAA in atherosclerotic disease. Serum samples from controls (n = 82) and patients with; non-obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD), (n = 40), acute myocardial infarction (AMI) (n = 42), or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery due to obstructive multi-vessel CAD (n = 72), were collected and tested for antibody isotypes to MAA-modifed human serum albumin (MAA-HSA). CAD patients had elevated relative levels of IgG and IgA anti-MAA, compared to control patients (p<0.001). AMI patients had a significantly increased relative levels of circulating IgG anti-MAA-HSA antibodies as compared to stable angina (p<0.03) or CABG patients (p<0.003). CABG patients had significantly increased relative levels of circulating IgA anti-MAA-HSA antibodies as compared to non-obstructive CAD (p<0.001) and AMI patients (p<0.001). Additionally, MAA-modified proteins were detected in the tissue of human AMI lesions. In conclusion, the IgM, IgG and IgA anti-MAA-HSA antibody isotypes are differentially and significantly associated with non-obstructive CAD, AMI, or obstructive multi-vessel CAD and may serve as biomarkers of atherosclerotic disease.
PMCID: PMC4161424  PMID: 25210746
16.  Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide Assays Differ in Subjects at Elevated Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Subjects with Established Disease 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(9):2243-2252.
To compare commonly-available tests for antibodies to citrullinated protein antigens (ACPAs) for diagnostic accuracy and assay agreement in established rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and subjects at elevated risk for RA.
ELISA testing for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies was performed using CCP2 (Axis-Shield) and CCP3.1 (IgA/IgG INOVA) in the following subjects: 1) probands with established RA (N=340) from the Studies of the Etiology of RA (SERA), 2) first degree relatives (FDRs) without RA (family members of SERA RA probands; N=681), 3) Department of Defense Serum Repository (DoDSR) RA cases with pre-diagnosis samples (N=83; 47/83 also had post-diagnosis samples), and 4) blood-donor and DoDSR controls (N=283).
In established RA, CCP2 was more specific (99.2% vs. 93.1%, p<0.01), but less sensitive (58.7% vs. 67.4%, p=0.01) than CCP3.1, with specificity of CCP3.1 increasing to 97.2% if levels ≥3 times the standard cut-off level were considered. In all subjects, at standard cut-off levels, CCP3.1 positivity was more prevalent. In DoDSR cases, CCP2 was more specific than CCP3.1 for a future diagnosis of RA, and higher CCP levels trended towards greater specificity for disease onset within 2 years. At standard cut-off levels, assay agreement was good in established RA (kappa=0.76), but poor in FDRs without inflammatory arthritis (kappa=0.25).
Anti-CCP assays differ to an extent that may be meaningful in diagnosing RA in patients with inflammatory arthritis, and in evaluating the natural history of RA development in subjects at-risk for future RA. Mechanisms underlying these differences in test performance need further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3776020  PMID: 23686569
Rheumatoid arthritis; autoantibodies; CCP; ACPA; preclinical
17.  CASPASE-12 and rheumatoid arthritis in African-Americans 
Immunogenetics  2014;66(4):281-285.
CASPASE-12 (CASP12) has a down-regulatory function during infection, and thus may protect against inflammatory disease. We investigated the distribution of CASP12 alleles (#rs497116) in African-Americans (AA) with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). CASP12 alleles were genotyped in 953 RA patients and 342 controls. Statistical analyses comparing genotype groups were performed using Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric ANOVA with Mann-Whitney U tests and chi-square tests. There was no significant difference in the overall distribution of CASP12 genotypes within AA with RA, but CASP12 homozygous patients had lower baseline joint narrowing scores. CASP12 homozygosity appears to be a subtle protective factor for some aspects of RA in AA patients.
PMCID: PMC4139147  PMID: 24515649
18.  Prevalence of osteoporosis and osteopenia among African Americans with early rheumatoid arthritis: the impact of ethnic-specific normative data. 
PURPOSE: To examine the prevalence of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis among African Americans with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to assess the effect of using race/ethnicity-specific normative data. METHODS: Bone mineral density (BMD) of the hip and spine was assessed in African Americans with early RA. To examine the impact of using different normative data on disease classification, we calculated two sets of T scores, the first using sex-matched reference data from Caucasians and the second using data from African Americans. Osteoporosis was defined as a BMD at either site > or =2.5 SD below the young adult mean. Osteopenia was defined as a BMD > or =1 SD and <2.5 SD below this mean. RESULTS: Using Caucasian referent data, 33% (n=48) of patients had osteopenia or worse (n=48, 32.9%) and 5% (n=8) were osteoporotic. With the use of African-American normative data, 55% (n=94) were osteopenic or worse, and 16% (n=27) were osteoporotic. CONCLUSION: African Americans with RA are at risk of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis. Different diagnostic classifications may occur in this population based solely on the normative data used for assessing fracture risk. These results underscore the need for a standardized approach in defining osteopenia and osteoporosis in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC1364462  PMID: 16173331
19.  Genetic Variants Associated with Methotrexate Efficacy and Toxicity in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis: Results from the Treatment of Early Aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis Trial 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2013;14(1):48-53.
Methotrexate (MTX) has emerged as first-line therapy for early moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but individual variation in treatment response remains unexplained. We tested the associations between 863 known pharmacogenetic variants and MTX response in 471 TEAR Trial participants with early RA. Efficacy and toxicity were modeled using multiple regression, adjusted for demographic and clinical covariates. Penalized regression models were used to test joint associations of markers and/or covariates with the outcomes. The strongest genetic associations with efficacy were in CHST11 (five markers with P <0.003), encoding carbohydrate (chondroitin 4) sulfotransferase 11. Top markers associated with MTX toxicity were in the cytochrome p450 genes CYP20A1 and CYP39A1, solute carrier genes SLC22A2 and SLC7A7, and the mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase gene ALDH2. The selected markers explained a consistently higher proportion of variation in toxicity than efficacy. These findings could inform future development of personalized therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC3701736  PMID: 23545897
Methotrexate; rheumatoid arthritis; pharmacogenetics
20.  Relatives Without Rheumatoid Arthritis Show Reactivity to Anti-Citrullinated Protein/Peptide Antibodies Which are Associated with Arthritis-Related Traits: Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(8):1995-2004.
Examine anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) reactivity and determine associations between ACPA and other rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related autoantibodies and clinically-assessed swollen or tender joints in first-degree relatives (FDRs) without 1987 and 2010 American College of Rheumatology classified RA.
A bead-based assay measured 16 separate ACPA in sera from 111 FDRs (Ab+) who were positive on at least one visit for any of 5 RA-related autoantibodies (RF, anti-CCP2, and RF isotypes), and 99 FDRs (Ab−) who were never autoantibody positive. Cut-offs for positivity for each ACPA were determined using receiver operating characteristic curves of data from 200 RA cases and 98 blood-bank controls, wherein positivity for ≥ 9 ACPA had 92% specificity and 62% sensitivity for RA. In FDRs, we assessed ACPA reactivity and examined associations between ACPA (number positive and positivity for ≥ 9 ACPA) and RA-related characteristics.
Four of 7 anti-CCP2 positive and 8% of anti-CCP2 negative FDRs were positive for ≥ 9 ACPA. After adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity and pack-years of smoking, increasing number of ACPA was directly associated with having ≥ 1 tender joint on exam (OR=1.18, 95% CI 1.04–1.34), with the greatest risk seen in FDRs positive for ≥ 9 ACPA (OR=5.00, 95% CI 1.37–18.18).
RA-free FDRs demonstrate reactivity to multiple ACPA, even in those negative for rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP2, and increasing ACPA may be associated with signs of joint inflammation. Prospective evaluation of the relationship between these findings and progression of classifiable RA is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3729718  PMID: 23754702
pre-clinical RA; autoantibodies; ACPA; rheumatoid arthritis
21.  Cardiovascular Events Are Not Associated with MTHFR Polymorphisms, But Are Associated with Methotrexate Use and Traditional Risk Factors in US Veterans with Rheumatoid Arthritis 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(6):809-817.
C677T and A1298C polymorphisms in the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) have been associated with increased cardiovascular (CV) events in non-rheumatoid arthritis (RA) populations. We investigated potential associations of MTHFR polymorphisms and use of methotrexate (MTX) with time-to-CV event in data from the Veterans Affairs Rheumatoid Arthritis (VARA) registry.
VARA participants were genotyped for MTHFR polymorphisms. Variables included demographic information, baseline comorbidities, RA duration, autoantibody status, and disease activity. Patients’ comorbidities and outcome variables were defined using International Classification of Diseases-9 and Current Procedural Terminology codes. The combined CV event outcome included myocardial infarction (MI), percutaneous coronary intervention, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and stroke. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to model the time-to-CV event.
Data were available for 1047 subjects. Post-enrollment CV events occurred in 97 patients (9.26%). Although there was a trend toward reduced risk of CV events, MTHFR polymorphisms were not significantly associated with time-to-CV event. Time-to-CV event was associated with prior stroke (HR 2.01, 95% CI 1.03–3.90), prior MI (HR 1.70, 95% CI 1.06–2.71), hyperlipidemia (HR 1.57, 95% CI 1.01–2.43), and increased modified Charlson-Deyo index (HR 1.23, 95% CI 1.13–1.34). MTX use (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.44–0.99) and increasing education (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.80–0.95) were associated with a lower risk for CV events.
Although MTHFR polymorphisms were previously associated with CV events in non-RA populations, we found only a trend toward decreased association with CV events in RA. Traditional risk factors conferred substantial CV risk, while MTX use and increasing years of education were protective. (First Release April 1 2013; J Rheumatol 2013;40:809–17; doi:10.3899/ jrheum.121012)
PMCID: PMC4097095  PMID: 23547211
22.  Multiple cytokines and chemokines are associated with rheumatoid arthritis-related autoimmunity in first-degree relatives without rheumatoid arthritis: Studies of the Aetiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA) 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(6):901-907.
We investigated whether rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related autoantibodies were associated with systemic inflammation in a prospective cohort of first-degree relatives (FDRs) of RA probands, a population without RA but at increased risk for its future development.
We studied 44 autoantibody positive FDRs, of whom 29 were rheumatoid factor (RF) positive, 25 were positive for the high risk autoantibody profile (HRP), that is, positive for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide and/or for at least two RF IgM, IgG or IgA isotypes, and nine FDRs who were positive for both; and 62 FDRs who were never autoantibody positive. Twenty-five cytokines/chemokines were measured using a bead-based assay in serum. As a comprehensive measure of inflammation, we calculated a Cytokine Score by summing all cytokine/chemokine levels, weighted by their regression coefficients for RA-autoantibody association. We compared C-reactive protein, individual cytokines/chemokines and Cytokine Score to the outcomes: positivity for RF and for the HRP using logistic regression.
Adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity and ever smoking, the Cytokine Score and levels of IL-6 and IL-9 were associated with both RF and HRP. IL-2, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and interferon (IFN)-γ were associated with HRP only. Associations between the Cytokine Score and RF and HRP positivity were replicated in an independent military personnel cohort.
In first-degree relatives of patients with RA, RA-related autoimmunity is associated with inflammation, as evidenced by associations with multiple cytokines and chemokines.
PMCID: PMC3726193  PMID: 22915618
23.  Gene-body mass index interactions are associated with methotrexate toxicity in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(4):785-786.
PMCID: PMC3970399  PMID: 24291656
Gene polymorphism; methotrexate; rheumatoid arthritis
24.  Nanomedicines for Inflammatory Arthritis: Head-To-Head Comparison of Glucocorticoid-Containing Polymers, Micelles and Liposomes 
ACS nano  2013;8(1):458-466.
As an emerging research direction, nanomedicine has been increasingly utilized to treat inflammatory diseases. In this head-to-head comparison study, four established nanomedicine formulations of dexamethasone, including liposomes (L-Dex), core-crosslinked micelles (M-Dex), slow releasing polymeric prodrugs (P-Dex-slow) and fast releasing polymeric prodrugs (P-Dex-fast), were evaluated in an adjuvant-induced arthritis rat model with an equivalent dose treatment design. It was found that after a single i.v. injection, the formulations with the slower drug release kinetics (i.e. M-Dex and P-Dex-slow) maintained longer duration of therapeutic activity than those with relatively faster drug release kinetics, resulting in better joint protection. This finding will be instructional in the future development and optimization of nanomedicines for the clinical management of rheumatoid arthritis. The outcome of this study also illustrates the value of such head-to-head comparison studies in translational nanomedicine research.
PMCID: PMC3947749  PMID: 24341611
nanomedicine; drug targeting; inflammation; rheumatoid arthritis; glucocorticoid; dexamethasone; liposome; micelle; HPMA copolymer
25.  Body mass index and the rheumatoid arthritis swollen joint count: an observational study 
Arthritis care & research  2013;65(1):101-106.
Obesity is a prevalent condition and a serious health concern. The relationship between obesity and RA disease activity and severity has not been adequately examined, and there are concerns that periarticular adipose tissue may reduce the utility of the joint examination.
We used a cross-sectional study to compare the performance of swollen joint count (SJC) in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) across body mass index (BMI) strata. Specifically, regression techniques tested for associations of SJC and seven RA disease activity/severity measures (including high sensitivity c-reactive protein, radiographic changes, and multi-dimensional health assessment questionnaire scores) within BMI quartiles. We also evaluated the association of BMI with radiographic evidence of RA in multivariate analyses and the association of BMI with SJC. Clinical and laboratory data from 980 Veterans Affairs Rheumatoid Arthritis (VARA) registry participants were analyzed using linear and logistic regression.
Associations were evident between SJC and six of the seven examined RA disease activity/severity measures. SJC predicts RA disease activity/severity at least as well in more obese subjects as in subjects with lower BMIs, and there was a trend towards better performance in higher BMI individuals. Subjects with higher BMIs were marginally less likely to be characterized by radiographic changes (O.R. 0.98, p=0.051). We found no association between BMI and SJC.
BMI does not obscure the relationship of SJC and objective disease activity measures. There is a borderline association of higher BMI and likelihood of radiographic changes characteristic of RA after controlling for clinical characteristics.
PMCID: PMC3430738  PMID: 22623288
Arthritis; Rheumatoid; Obesity; Physical Examination; Cross-Sectional Studies

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