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1.  STAT4 Associates with SLE Through Two Independent Effects that Correlate with Gene Expression and Act Additively with IRF5 to Increase Risk 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2008;68(11):10.1136/ard.2008.097642.
Objectives
To confirm and define the genetic association of STAT4 and systemic lupus erythematosus, investigate the possibility of correlations with differential splicing and/or expression levels, and genetic interaction with IRF5.
Methods
30 tag SNPs were genotyped in an independent set of Spanish cases and controls. SNPs surviving correction for multiple tests were genotyped in 5 new sets of cases and controls for replication. STAT4 cDNA was analyzed by 5’-RACE PCR and sequencing. Expression levels were measured by quantitative PCR.
Results
In the fine-mapping, four SNPs were significant after correction for multiple testing, with rs3821236 and rs3024866 as the strongest signals, followed by the previously associated rs7574865, and by rs1467199. Association was replicated in all cohorts. After conditional regression analyses, two major independent signals represented by SNPs rs3821236 and rs7574865, remained significant across the sets. These SNPs belong to separate haplotype blocks. High levels of STAT4 expression correlated with SNPs rs3821236, rs3024866 (both in the same haplotype block) and rs7574865 but not with other SNPs. We also detected transcription of alternative tissue-specific exons 1, indicating presence of tissue-specific promoters of potential importance in the expression of STAT4. No interaction with associated SNPs of IRF5 was observed using regression analysis.
Conclusions
These data confirm STAT4 as a susceptibility gene for SLE and suggest the presence of at least two functional variants affecting levels of STAT4. Our results also indicate that both genes STAT4 and IRF5 act additively to increase risk for SLE.
doi:10.1136/ard.2008.097642
PMCID: PMC3878433  PMID: 19019891
Association studies; systemic lupus erythematosus; STAT4 transcription factor; Interferon regulatory factor; genetic predisposition to disease
2.  Replication of the TNFSF4 (OX40L) Promoter Region Association with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2008;10(3):10.1038/gene.2008.95.
The tumor necrosis factor ligand superfamily member 4 gene (TNFSF4) encodes the OX40 ligand (OX40L), a co-stimulatory molecule involved in T-cell activation. A recent study demonstrated the association ofTNFSF4 haplotypes located in the upstream region with risk for- or protection from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) (Graham et al, 2008). In order to replicate this association, five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) tagging the previously associated haplotypes and passing the proper quality control filters were tested in 1312 cases and 1801 controls from Germany, Italy, Spain, and Argentina. The association of TNFSF4 with SLE was replicated in all the sets except Spain. There was a unique risk haplotype tagged by the minor alleles of the SNPs rs1234317 (pooled OR=1.39, p=0.0009) and rs12039904 (pooled OR=1.38, p=0.0012). We did not observe association to a single protective marker (rs844644) or haplotype as the first study reported; instead, we observed different protective haplotypes, all carrying the major alleles of both SNPs rs1234317 and rs12039904. Association analysis conditioning on the haplotypic background confirmed that these two SNPs explain the entire haplotype effect. This is the first replication study that confirms the association of genetic variation in the upstream region of TNFSF4 with susceptibility to SLE.
doi:10.1038/gene.2008.95
PMCID: PMC3867640  PMID: 19092840
Systemic lupus erythematosus; TNFSF4; OX40L; genetic association study
3.  Genetic and Physical Interaction of the B-Cell SLE-Associated Genes BANK1 and BLK 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(1):136-142.
Objectives
Altered signaling in B-cells is a predominant feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The genes BANK1 and BLK were recently described as associated with SLE. BANK1 codes for a B-cell-specific cytoplasmic protein involved in B-cell receptor signaling and BLK codes for an Src tyrosine kinase with important roles in B-cell development. To characterize the role of BANK1 and BLK in SLE, we performed a genetic interaction analysis hypothesizing that genetic interactions could reveal functional pathways relevant to disease pathogenesis.
Methods
We Used the method GPAT16 to analyze the gene-gene interactions of BANK1 and BLK. Confocal microscopy was used to investigate co-localization, and immunoprecipitation was used to verify the physical interaction of BANK1 and BLK.
Results
Epistatic interactions between BANK1 and BLK polymorphisms associated with SLE were observed in a discovery set of 279 patients and 515 controls from Northern Europe. A meta-analysis with 4399 European individuals confirmed the genetic interactions between BANK1 and BLK.
As BANK1 was identified as a binding partner of the Src tyrosine kinase LYN, we tested the possibility that BANK1 and BLK could also show a protein-protein interaction. We demonstrated co-immunoprecipitation and co-localization of BLK and BANK1. In a Daudi cell line and primary naïve B-cells the endogenous binding was enhanced upon B-cell receptor stimulation using anti-IgM antibodies.
Conclusions
Here, we show a genetic interaction between BANK1 and BLK, and demonstrate that these molecules interact physically. Our results have important consequences for the understanding of SLE and other autoimmune diseases and identify a potential new signaling pathway.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200085
PMCID: PMC3268679  PMID: 21978998
systemic lupus erythematosus; genetics; polymorphism; B-cells; autoantibodies
4.  Fine Mapping and Conditional Analysis Identify a New Mutation in the Autoimmunity Susceptibility Gene BLK that Leads to Reduced Half-Life of the BLK Protein 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(7):1219-1226.
Objectives
To perform fine mapping of the autoimmunity susceptibility gene BLK and identify functional variants involved in SLE.
Methods
Genotyping of 1163 European SLE patients and 1482 controls and imputation were performed covering the BLK gene with 158 SNPs. Logistic regression analysis was done using PLINK and conditional analyses using GENABEL’s test score. Transfections of BLK constructs on HEK293 cells containing the novel mutation or the wild-type form were made to analyse their effect on protein half-life using a protein stability assay, cycloheximide and Western blot. CHiP-qPCR for NFkB binding.
Results
Fine mapping of BLK identified two independent genetic effects with functional consequences: one represented by two tightly linked associated haplotype blocks significantly enriched for NFκB-binding sites and numerous putative regulatory variants whose risk alleles correlated with low BLK mRNA levels. Binding of NFkBp50 and p65 to an associated 1.2Kb haplotype segment was confirmed. A second independent genetic effect was represented by an Ala71Thr, low-frequency missense substitution with an OR = 2.31 (95% c.i. 1.38–3.86). The 71Thr decreased BLK protein half-life.
Conclusions
Our results show that rare and common regulatory variants in BLK are involved in disease susceptibility and both, albeit independently lead to reduced levels of BLK protein.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200987
PMCID: PMC3375585  PMID: 22696686
systemic lupus erythematosus; autoimmunity; genetics; polymorphism; B-cells; autoantibodies; B-lymphocyte tyrosine kinase
5.  Genetic associations in type I interferon related pathways with autoimmunity 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(Suppl 1):S2.
Type I interferons play an outstanding role in innate and adaptive immunity by enhancing functions of dendritic cells, inducing differentiation of monocytes, promoting immunoglobulin class switching in B cells and stimulating effector functions of T cells. The increased production of IFNα/β by plasmacytoid dendritic cells could be responsible for not only efficient antiviral defence, but it also may be a pathological factor in the development of various autoimmune disorders. The first evidence of a genetic link between type I interferons and autoimmune diseases was the observation that elevated IFNα activity is frequently detected in the sera of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, and that this trait shows high heritability and familial aggregation in their first-degree healthy relatives. To date, a number of genes involved in interferon signalling have been associated with various autoimmune diseases. Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren's syndrome, dermatomyositis, psoriasis, and a fraction of patients with rheumatoid arthritis display a specific expression pattern of interferon-dependent genes in their leukocytes, termed the interferon signature. Here, in an attempt to understand the role of type I interferons in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity, we review the recent advances in the genetics of autoimmune diseases focusing on the association of genes involved in type I interferon pathways.
doi:10.1186/ar2883
PMCID: PMC2991775  PMID: 20392289
6.  Genetic Associations of LYN with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):397-403.
We targeted LYN, a src-tyosine kinase involved in B cell activation, in case-control association studies using populations of European American, African American and Korean subjects. Our combined European-derived population, consisting of 2463 independent cases and 3131 unrelated controls, demonstrates significant association with rs6983130 in a female-only analysis with 2254 cases and 2228 controls (p=1.1 × 10−4, OR=0.81 (95% CI: 0.73 – 0.90)). This SNP is located in the 5′ UTR within the first intron near the transcription initiation site of LYN. Additional SNPs upstream of the first exon also show weak and sporadic association in subsets of the total European American population. Multivariate logistic regression analysis implicates rs6983130 as a protective factor for SLE susceptibility when anti-dsDNA, anti-chromatin, anti-52 kDa Ro or anti-Sm autoantibody status were used as covariates. Subset analysis of the European American female cases by ACR classification criteria reveals a reduction in the risk of hematologic disorder with rs6983130 compared to cases without hematologic disorders (p=1.5 × 10−3, OR=0.75 (95% C.I.=0.62-0.89)). None of the 90 SNPs tested demonstrate significant association with SLE in the African American or Korean populations. These results support an association of LYN with European-derived individuals with SLE, especially within autoantibody or clinical subsets.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.19
PMCID: PMC2750001  PMID: 19369946
systemic lupus erythematosus; association; LYN; SNP
7.  Fine mapping and conditional analysis identify a new mutation in the autoimmunity susceptibility gene BLK that leads to reduced half-life of the BLK protein 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(7):1219-1226.
Objectives
To perform fine mapping of the autoimmunity susceptibility gene BLK and identify functional variants involved in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods
Genotyping of 1163 European SLE patients and 1482 controls and imputation were performed covering the BLK gene with 158 single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Logistic regression analysis was done using PLINK and conditional analyses using GENABEL's test score. Transfections of BLK constructs on HEK293 cells containing the novel mutation or the wild type form were analysed for their effect on protein half-life using a protein stability assay, cycloheximide and western blot. CHiP-qPCR for detection of nuclear factor κ B (NFkB) binding.
Results
Fine mapping of BLK identified two independent genetic effects with functional consequences: one represented by two tightly linked associated haplotype blocks significantly enriched for NFκB-binding sites and numerous putative regulatory variants whose risk alleles correlated with low BLK mRNA levels. Binding of NFkBp50 and p65 to an associated 1.2 Kb haplotype segment was confirmed. A second independent genetic effect was represented by an Ala71Thr, low-frequency missense substitution with an OR=2.31 (95% CI 1.38 to 3.86). The 71Thr decreased BLK protein half-life.
Conclusions
These results show that rare and common regulatory variants in BLK are involved in disease susceptibility and both, albeit independently, lead to reduced levels of BLK protein.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200987
PMCID: PMC3375585  PMID: 22696686

Results 1-7 (7)