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1.  Lupus risk variants in the PXK locus alter B-cell receptor internalization 
Frontiers in Genetics  2015;5:450.
Genome wide association studies have identified variants in PXK that confer risk for humoral autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), rheumatoid arthritis and more recently systemic sclerosis. While PXK is involved in trafficking of epidermal growth factor Receptor (EGFR) in COS-7 cells, mechanisms linking PXK to lupus pathophysiology have remained undefined. In an effort to uncover the mechanism at this locus that increases lupus-risk, we undertook a fine-mapping analysis in a large multi-ancestral study of lupus patients and controls. We define a large (257kb) common haplotype marking a single causal variant that confers lupus risk detected only in European ancestral populations and spans the promoter through the 3′ UTR of PXK. The strongest association was found at rs6445972 with P < 4.62 × 10−10, OR 0.81 (0.75–0.86). Using stepwise logistic regression analysis, we demonstrate that one signal drives the genetic association in the region. Bayesian analysis confirms our results, identifying a 95% credible set consisting of 172 variants spanning 202 kb. Functionally, we found that PXK operates on the B-cell antigen receptor (BCR); we confirmed that PXK influenced the rate of BCR internalization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that individuals carrying the risk haplotype exhibited a decreased rate of BCR internalization, a process known to impact B cell survival and cell fate. Taken together, these data define a new candidate mechanism for the genetic association of variants around PXK with lupus risk and highlight the regulation of intracellular trafficking as a genetically regulated pathway mediating human autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4288052  PMID: 25620976
lupus; PXK; fine-mapping; B cells; BCR
2.  Genetics of Sjögren’s syndrome in the genome-wide association era 
Journal of autoimmunity  2012;39(1-2):57-63.
While Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is more common than related autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scientific and medical research in SS has lagged behind significantly. This is especially true in the field of SS genetics, where efforts to date have relied heavily on candidate gene approaches. Within the last decade, the advent of the genome-wide association (GWA) scan has altered our understanding of disease pathogenesis in hundreds of disorders through the successful identification of novel risk loci. With strong evidence for a genetic component in SS as evidenced by familial aggregation of SS as well as similarities between SS and SLE and RA, the application of GWA approaches would likely yield numerous novel risk loci in SS. Here we review the fundamental scientific principles employed in GWA scans as well as the limitations of this tool, and we discuss the application of GWA scans in determining genetic variants at play in complex disease. We also examine the successful application of GWA scans in SLE, which now has more than 40 confirmed risk loci, and consider the possibility for a similar trajectory of SS genetic discovery in the era of GWA scans. Ultimately, the GWA studies that will be performed in SS have the potential to identify a myriad of novel genetic loci that will allow scientists to begin filling in the gaps in our understanding of the SS pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3518871  PMID: 22289719
genetics; Sjögren’s syndrome; genome-wide association
3.  Peripheral blood gene expression profiling in Sjögren’s syndrome 
Genes and Immunity  2009;10(4):285-296.
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a common chronic autoimmune disease characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of exocrine glands. Affected cases commonly present with oral and ocular dryness, thought to be the result of inflammatory cell-mediated gland dysfunction. To identify important molecular pathways involved in SS, we used high-density microarrays to define global gene expression profiles in peripheral blood. We first analyzed 21 SS cases and 23 controls and identified a prominent pattern of overexpressed genes that are inducible by interferons (IFNs). These results were confirmed by evaluation of a second independent dataset of 17 SS cases and 22 controls. Additional inflammatory and immune-related pathways with altered expression patterns in SS cases included B and T cell receptor, IGF-1, GM-CSF, PPARα/RXRα, and PI3/AKT signaling. Exploration of these data for relationships to clinical features of disease revealed that expression levels for most IFN-inducible genes were positively correlated with titers of anti-Ro/SSA (P<0.001) and anti-La/SSB (P<0.001) autoantibodies. Diagnostic and therapeutic approaches targeting IFN signaling pathway may prove most effective in the subset of SS cases who produce anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB autoantibodies. Our results strongly support innate and adaptive immune processes in the pathogenesis of SS and provide numerous candidate disease markers for further study.
PMCID: PMC3273959  PMID: 19404300
4.  Recent insights into the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):373-379.
Genetic variation was first shown to be part of the cause of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) in the 1970s with associations in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region. Almost four decades later, and with the help of increasingly powerful genetic approaches, more than 25 genes are now known to contribute to the mechanisms that predispose individuals to lupus. Over half of these loci have been discovered in the past two years, underscoring the extraordinary success of recent genome-wide association approaches in SLE. The now well established genetic risk factors include alleles in the MHC region (multiple genes), IRF5, ITGAM, STAT4, BLK, BANK1, PDCD1, PTPN22, TNFSF4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, ATG5, XKR6, PXK, some of the Fcγ receptors, and deficiencies in several complement components, including C1q, C4, and C2. As reviewed here, many of these genes fall into key pathways that are consistent with previous studies implicating immune complexes, host immune signal transduction, and interferon pathways in the pathogenesis of SLE. Other genetic loci have no known function or apparent immunological role and have the potential to reveal novel disease mechanisms. Certainly, as our understanding of the genetic etiology of SLE continues to mature, important new opportunities will emerge for developing more targeted and effective diagnostic and clinical management tools for this complex autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC3144759  PMID: 19440199
5.  Variation in the ATP-binding cassette transporter 2 gene is a separate risk factor for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus within the MHC 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(4):350-355.
The ATP-binding cassette transporter (TAP) proteins are functionally relevant candidates for predisposition to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) by virtue of their role in autoantigen presentation and location in the MHC. We tested if variation in the TAP genes (TAP1 and TAP2) is associated with SLE. We genotyped tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and performed family-based association analysis on 390 Caucasian pedigrees. We found significant evidence of association between TAP2 and SLE (rs241453, P = 1.33 × 10-6). Conditional logistic regression analysis suggests that this TAP2 effect is separate from the HLA-DRB1 alleles. Our analyses show that both rs241453 (P = 1.6 × 10-4) and HLA-DRB1*03xx (P = 2.3 × 10-4) have significant autonomous effects not due to linkage disequilibrium. Moreover, these loci exhibit a significant statistical interaction (P < 1.0 × 10-6), demonstrated by an increase in the odds ratio for the TAP2 association from OR = 2.00 (CI=1.17-3.42) in HLA-DRB1*03xx-negative subjects to OR = 4.29 (CI=1.88-9.76) in the subjects with at least one HLA-DRB1*03xx allele group. We report the largest association study of the TAP genes with SLE to date, and the first to test for its separate effect and interaction with the HLA alleles consistently associated with SLE.
PMCID: PMC2927958  PMID: 19387463
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; TAP2; HLA-DRB1; family-based association analysis; conditional logistic regression analysis; interaction analysis
6.  Dense genotyping of immune-related disease regions identifies 14 new susceptibility loci for juvenile idiopathic arthritis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(6):664-669.
Analysis of the ImmunoChip single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array in 2816 individuals, comprising the most common subtypes (oligoarticular and RF negative polyarticular) of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and 13056 controls strengthens the evidence for association to three known JIA-risk loci (HLA, PTPN22 and PTPN2) and has identified fourteen risk loci reaching genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10-8) for the first time. Eleven additional novel regions showed suggestive evidence for association with JIA (p < 1 × 10-6). Dense-mapping of loci along with bioinformatic analysis has refined the association to one gene for eight regions, highlighting crucial pathways, including the IL-2 pathway, in JIA disease pathogenesis. The entire ImmunoChip loci, HLA region and the top 27 loci (p < 1 × 10-6) explain an estimated 18%, 13% and 6% risk of JIA, respectively. Analysis of the ImmunoChip dataset, the largest cohort of JIA cases investigated to date, provides new insight in understanding the genetic basis for this childhood autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC3673707  PMID: 23603761
7.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and altered type I interferon expression. Genetic surveys and genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 SLE susceptibility genes. One of these genes, TNIP1, encodes the ABIN1 protein. ABIN1 functions in the immune system by restricting the NF-κB signaling. In order to better understand the genetic factors that influence association with SLE in genes that regulate the NF-κB pathway, we analyzed a dense set of genetic markers spanning TNIP1 and TAX1BP1, as well as the TNIP1 homolog, TNIP2, in case-control sets of diverse ethnic origins.
We fine-mapped TNIP1, TNIP2, and TAX1BP1 in a total of 8372 SLE cases and 7492 healthy controls from European-ancestry, African-American, Hispanic, East Asian, and African-American Gullah populations. Levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein were analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively, in EBV-transformed human B cell lines.
We found significant associations between genetic variants within TNIP1 and SLE but not in TNIP2 or TAX1BP1. After resequencing and imputation, we identified two independent risk haplotypes within TNIP1 in individuals of European-ancestry that were also present in African-American and Hispanic populations. These risk haplotypes produced lower levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein suggesting they harbor hypomorphic functional variants that influence susceptibility to SLE by restricting ABIN1 expression.
Our results confirmed the association signals between SLE and TNIP1 variants in multiple populations and provide new insight into the mechanism by which TNIP1 variants may contribute to SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
9.  Large Scale Analysis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2947-2952.
SLE disease manifestations are highly variable between patients, and the prevalence of individual clinical features differs significantly by ancestry. Serum tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is elevated in some SLE patients, and may play a role in disease pathogenesis. We detected associations between serum TNF-α, clinical manifestations, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α in a large multi-ancestral SLE cohort.
We studied serum TNF-α in 653 SLE patients, including 214 African-American, 298 European-Americans and 141 Hispanic-American subjects. TNF-α was measured using ELISA, and IFN-α was measured with a functional reporter cell assay. Stratified and multivariate analyses were used to detect associations in each ancestral background separately, with meta-analysis when appropriate.
Serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher in SLE patients than in nonautoimmune controls (p<5.0×10−3 for each ancestral background). High serum TNF-α was positively correlated with high serum IFN-α when tested in the same sample across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR=1.8, p=1.2×10−3). While serum TNF-α levels alone did not differ significantly between SLE patients of different ancestral backgrounds, the proportion of patients with concurrently high TNF-α and high IFN-α was highest in African-Americans and lowest in European-Americans (p=5.0×10−3). Serum TNF-α was not associated with autoantibodies, clinical criteria for the diagnosis of SLE, or age at time of sample.
Serum TNF-α levels are high in many SLE patients, and we observed a positive correlation between serum TNF-α and IFN-α. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis across all ancestral backgrounds, and suggest important cytokine subgroups within the disease.
PMCID: PMC3396783  PMID: 22488302
systemic lupus erythematosus; tumor necrosis factor alpha; autoantibodies, ancestry
10.  Relation of Sensory Peripheral Neuropathy in Sjögren Syndrome to anti-Ro/SSA 
Sjögren syndrome is a common, chronic autoimmune disease that typically produces inflammation and poor function of the salivary and lacrimal glands. Other organs can be affected, including the nervous system. Sensory peripheral neuropathy is a common manifestation of the disease.
Eight-eight patients attending a dry eyes-dry mouth clinic were classified as primary Sjögren syndrome and underwent a neurological examination. Anti-Ro (or SSA) and anti-La (or SSB) were determined using immunodiffusion as well as Inno-Lia and BioPlex ANA screen. Serum vitamin B12 levels were determined using an enzyme-linked microtiter plate assay.
Twenty-seven (31%) of the 88 patients had peripheral neuropathy as defined by loss of light touch, proprioception or vibratory sensation. Anti-Ro and anti-La were found by immunodiffusion in 12 patients, and 8 of these 12 had neuropathy (χ2=8.46, p=0.0036, odds ratio = 6.0 compared to those without precipitating anti-Ro and anti-La). Of the 27 patients with only anti-Ro by immunodiffusion, 13 (48.1%) of these had neuropathy (χ2 =5.587, p=0.018 compared to those without anti-Ro). There was no relationship of the other, more sensitive measures of anti-Ro and anti-La to neuropathy. In addition, we found no association of serum vitamin B12 levels to neuropathy among these patients with Sjögren syndrome.
Sensory peripheral neuropathy is common among patients with Sjögren syndrome, and is associated with the presence of anti-Ro and anti-La when determined by immunodiffusion.
PMCID: PMC3577358  PMID: 22955477
Sjögren syndrome; autoantibodies; peripheral neuropathy; vitamin B12
11.  Variable association of reactive intermediate genes with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in populations with different African ancestry 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(6):842-849.
Little is known about the genetic etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in individuals of African ancestry, despite its higher prevalence and greater disease severity. Overproduction of nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species are implicated in the pathogenesis and severity of SLE, making NO synthases and other reactive intermediate related genes biological candidates for disease susceptibility. This study analyzed variation in reactive intermediate genes for association with SLE in two populations with African ancestry.
A total of 244 SNPs from 53 regions were analyzed in non-Gullah African Americans (AA; 1432 cases and 1687 controls) and the genetically more homogeneous Gullah of the Sea Islands of South Carolina (133 cases and 112 controls) and. Single-marker, haplotype, and two-locus interaction tests were computed for these populations.
The glutathione reductase gene GSR (rs2253409, P=0.0014, OR [95% CI]=1.26 [1.09–1.44]) was the most significant single-SNP association in AA. In the Gullah, the NADH dehydrogenase NDUFS4 (rs381575, P=0.0065, OR [95%CI]=2.10 [1.23–3.59]) and nitric oxide synthase gene NOS1 (rs561712, P=0.0072, OR [95%CI]=0.62 [0.44–0.88]) were most strongly associated with SLE. When both populations were analyzed together, GSR remained the most significant effect (rs2253409, P=0.00072, OR [95%CI]=1.26 [1.10–1.44]). Haplotype and two-locus interaction analyses also uncovered different loci in each population.
These results suggest distinct patterns of association with SLE in African-derived populations; specific loci may be more strongly associated within select population groups.
PMCID: PMC3735344  PMID: 23637325
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; genetic association studies; oxygen compounds; single nucleotide polymorphism
12.  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.
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
13.  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.
PMCID: PMC3712260  PMID: 18204446
14.  Polymorphism at the TNF superfamily gene TNFSF4 confers susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus 
Nature genetics  2007;40(1):83-89.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multisystem complex autoimmune disease of uncertain etiology (OMIM 152700). Over recent years a genetic component to SLE susceptibility has been established1–3. Recent successes with association studies in SLE have identified genes including IRF5 (refs. 4,5) and FCGR3B6. Two tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily members located within intervals showing genetic linkage with SLE are TNFSF4 (also known as OX40L; 1q25), which is expressed on activated antigen-presenting cells (APCs)7,8 and vascular endothelial cells9, and also its unique receptor, TNFRSF4 (also known as OX40; 1p36), which is primarily expressed on activated CD4+ T cells10. TNFSF4 produces a potent co-stimulatory signal for activated CD4+ T cells after engagement of TNFRSF4 (ref. 11). Using both a family-based and a case-control study design, we show that the upstream region of TNFSF4 contains a single risk haplotype for SLE, which is correlated with increased expression of both cell-surface TNFSF4 and the TNFSF4 transcript. We hypothesize that increased expression of TNFSF4 predisposes to SLE either by quantitatively augmenting T cell–APC interaction or by influencing the functional consequences of T cell activation via TNFRSF4.
PMCID: PMC3705866  PMID: 18059267
15.  Evaluation of TRAF6 in a Large Multi-Ancestral Lupus Cohort 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1960-1969.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3380425  PMID: 22231568
TRAF6; polymorphism; systemic lupus erythematosus
16.  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3324666  PMID: 22110124
17.  Primary Sjogren’s Syndrome: Cognitive Symptoms, Mood and Cognitive Performance 
Acta Neurologica Scandinavica  2011;125(4):272-278.
to investigate the relationships between self-reported cognitive abilities, psychological symptoms and neuropsychological outcomes in PSS.
PSS patients and healthy controls completed a comprehensive neuropsychometric battery and questionnaires: the Centers for Epidemiological Scale-Depression, the Profile of Fatigue- mental domain (Prof-M) for cognitive symptoms, Fatigue Severity Scale and the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire.
Female PSS patients (N=39) were similar to controls (N=17) in estimated pre-morbid intellectual function, age and education. Depression (p=.002), cognitive symptoms (p=.001), fatigue (p=.000003) and pain (p=.024) scores were greater in the patient group. PSS patients demonstrated inferior performance relative to controls in psychomotor processing (p=.027) and verbal reasoning (p=.007). PSS patients with and without depression had similar performance on multiple tests, but depressed patients had significantly lower scores for executive function (p=.041). Cognitive symptoms correlated with verbal memory (p=.048), whereas pain correlated with executive function measures (Stroop, p=.017) and working memory (Trails B, p=.036). In the regression model, depression and verbal memory were independent predictors that accounted for 61 % of the variance in cognitive symptoms.
The Prof-M is a simple self-report measure which could be useful in screening PSS subjects who may benefit from detailed psychometric evaluation. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that depression and verbal memory impairment are overlapping but independent aspects of neural involvement in PSS. While pain and depression are significant confounders of cognitive function in PSS, this study suggests that impaired verbal reasoning ability in PSS is not attributable to pain or depression.
PMCID: PMC3188671  PMID: 21651503
Cognition; Central nervous system disorders; Depression; Sjogren’s syndrome
18.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC3575474  PMID: 23441136
20.  Evaluation of genetic association between an ITGAM non-synonymous SNP (rs1143679) and multiple autoimmune diseases 
Autoimmunity Reviews  2011;11(4):276-280.
Many autoimmune diseases (ADs) share similar underlying pathology and have a tendency to cluster within families, supporting the involvement of shared susceptibility genes. To date, most of the genetic variants associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility also show association with others ADs. ITGAM and its associated ‘predisposing’ variant (rs1143679, Arg77His), predicted to alter the tertiary structures of the ligand-binding domain of ITGAM, may play a key role for SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study is to examine whether the ITGAM variant is also associated with other ADs. We evaluated case-control association between rs1143679 and ADs (N=18,457) including primary Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes. We also performed meta-analyses using our data in addition to available published data. Although the risk allele ‘A’ is relatively more frequent among cases for each disease, it was not significantly associated with any other ADs tested in this study. However, the meta-analysis for systemic sclerosis was associated with rs1143679 (pmeta=0.008). In summary, this study explored the role of ITGAM in general autoimmunity in seven non-lupus ADs, and only found association for systemic sclerosis when our results were combined with published results. Thus ITGAM may not be a general autoimmunity gene but this variant may be specifically associated with SLE and systemic sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3224188  PMID: 21840425
ITGAM; autoimmune diseases; genetic susceptibility
21.  Evidence for gene-gene epistatic interactions among susceptibility loci for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(2):485-492.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC3268866  PMID: 21952918
22.  The Genomics of Autoimmune Disease in the Era of Genome-Wide Association Studies and Beyond 
Autoimmunity Reviews  2011;11(4):267-275.
Recent advances in the field of genetics have dramatically changed our understanding of autoimmune disease. Candidate gene and, more recently, genome-wide association (GWA) studies have led to an explosion in the number of loci and pathways known to contribute to autoimmune phenotypes. Since the 1970s, researchers have known that several alleles in the MHC region play a role in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. More recent work has identified numerous risk loci involving both the innate and adaptive immune responses. However, much remains to be learned about the heritability of autoimmune conditions. Most regions found through GWA scans have yet to isolate the association to the causal allele(s) responsible for conferring disease risk. A role for rare variants (allele frequencies of <1%) has begun to emerge. Future research will use next generation sequencing (NGS) technology to comprehensively evaluate the human genome for risk variants. Whole transcriptome sequencing is now possible, which will provide much more detailed gene expression data. The dramatic drop in the cost and time required to sequence the entire human genome will ultimately make it possible for this technology to be used as a clinical diagnostic tool.
PMCID: PMC3288956  PMID: 22001415
Genetics; Genomics; Genome-wide association study; Autoimmune disease
23.  A functional haplotype of UBE2L3 confers risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2012;13(5):380-387.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with diverse clinical manifestations characterized by the development of pathogenic autoantibodies manifesting in inflammation of target organs such as the kidneys, skin and joints. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants in the UBE2L3 region that are associated with SLE in subjects of European and Asian ancestry. UBE2L3 encodes an ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UBCH7, involved in cell proliferation and immune function. In this study, we sought to further characterize the genetic association in the region of UBE2L3 and use molecular methods to determine the functional effect of the risk haplotype. We identified significant associations between variants in the region of UBE2L3 and SLE in individuals of European and Asian ancestry that exceeded a Bonferroni corrected threshold (P < 1 × 10−4). A single risk haplotype was observed in all associated populations. Individuals harboring the risk haplotype display a significant increase in both UBE2L3 mRNA expression (P = 0.0004) and UBCH7 protein expression (P = 0.0068). The results suggest that variants carried on the SLE associated UBE2L3 risk haplotype influence autoimmunity by modulating UBCH7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3411915  PMID: 22476155
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; UBE2L3; Multi Ethnic Association Study; UBCH7 Expression
24.  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.
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.
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.
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).
These findings are the first to suggest that an ICAM–integrin-mediated pathway contributes to susceptibility to SLE.
PMCID: PMC3466387  PMID: 22523428
25.  Phenotypic associations of genetic susceptibility loci in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2011;70(10):1752-1757.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disease. A number of genetic loci that increase lupus susceptibility have been established. This study examines if these genetic loci also contribute to the clinical heterogeneity in lupus.
Materials and methods
4001 European-derived, 1547 Hispanic, 1590 African-American and 1191 Asian lupus patients were genotyped for 16 confirmed lupus susceptibility loci. Ancestry informative markers were genotyped to calculate and adjust for admixture. The association between the risk allele in each locus was determined and compared in patients with and without the various clinical manifestations included in the ACR criteria.
Renal disorder was significantly correlated with the lupus risk allele in ITGAM (p=5.0×10−6, OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.35) and in TNFSF4 (p=0.0013, OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.25). Other significant findings include the association between risk alleles in FCGR2A and malar rash (p=0.0031, OR 1.11, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.33), ITGAM and discoid rash (p=0.0020, OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.33), STAT4 and protection from oral ulcers (p=0.0027, OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.83 to 0.96) and IL21 and haematological disorder (p=0.0027, OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.22). All these associations are significant with a false discovery rate of <0.05 and pass the significance threshold using Bonferroni correction for multiple testing.
Significant associations were found between lupus clinical manifestations and the FCGR2A, ITGAM, STAT4, TNSF4 and IL21 genes. The findings suggest that genetic profiling might be a useful tool to predict disease manifestations in lupus patients in the future.
PMCID: PMC3232181  PMID: 21719445

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