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1.  Identification of a New Susceptibility Locus for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus on Chromosome 12 in Individuals of European Ancestry 
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) in individuals of European ancestry identified a number of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility loci using earlier versions of high-density genotyping platforms. Follow-up studies on suggestive GWAS regions using larger samples and more markers identified additional SLE loci in European-descent subjects. Here we report the results of a multi-stage study that we performed to identify novel SLE loci.
In Stage 1, we conducted a new GWAS of SLE in a North American case-control sample of European ancestry (n=1,166) genotyped on Affymetrix Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0. In Stage 2, we further investigated top new suggestive GWAS hits by in silico evaluation and meta-analysis using an additional dataset of European-descent subjects (>2,500 individuals), followed by replication of top meta-analysis findings in another dataset of European-descent subjects (>10,000 individuals) in Stage 3.
As expected, our GWAS revealed most significant associations at the major histocompatibility complex locus (6p21), which easily surpassed genome-wide significance threshold (P<5×10−8). Several other SLE signals/loci previously implicated in Caucasians and/or Asians were also supported in Stage 1 discovery sample and strongest signals were observed at 2q32/STAT4 (P=3.6×10−7) and at 8p23/BLK (P=8.1×10−6). Stage 2 meta-analyses identified a new genome-wide significant SLE locus at 12q12 (meta P=3.1×10−8), which was replicated in Stage 3.
Our multi-stage study identified and replicated a new SLE locus that warrants further follow-up in additional studies. Publicly available databases suggest that this new SLE signal falls within a functionally relevant genomic region and near biologically important genes.
PMCID: PMC4747422  PMID: 26316170
2.  Gut microbiome diversity among Cheyenne and Arapaho individuals from western Oklahoma 
Current biology : CB  2015;25(24):3161-3169.
Existing studies characterizing gut microbiome variation in the United States suffer from population ascertainment biases, with individuals of American Indian ancestry being among the most under-represented. Here, we describe the first gut microbiome diversity study of an American Indian community. We partnered with the Cheyenne & Arapaho (C&A), federally recognized American Indian Tribes in Oklahoma, and compared gut microbiome diversity and metabolic function of C&A participants to individuals of non-native ancestry in Oklahoma (NNI). While the C&A and NNI participants share microbiome features common to industrialized populations, the C&A participants had taxonomic profiles characterized by a reduced abundance of the anti-inflammatory bacterial genus Faecalibacterium, along with a fecal metabolite profile similar to dysbiotic states described for metabolic disorders. American Indians are known to be at elevated risk for metabolic disorders. While many aspects of this health disparity remain poorly understood, our results support the need to further study the microbiome as a contributing factor. As the field of microbiome research transitions to therapeutic interventions, it raises concerns that the continued exclusion and lack of participation of American Indian communities in these studies will further exacerbate health disparities. To increase momentum in fostering these much needed partnerships, it is essential that the scientific community actively engage in and recruit these vulnerable populations in basic research through a strategy that promotes mutual trust and understanding, as outlined in this study.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4703035  PMID: 26671671
3.  Genetic associations of leptin-related polymorphisms with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2015;161(2):157-162.
Leptin is abnormally elevated in the plasma of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), where it is thought to promote and/or sustain pro-inflammatory responses. Whether this association could reflect an increased genetic susceptibility to develop SLE is not known, and studies of genetic associations with leptin-related polymorphisms in SLE patients have been so far inconclusive. Here we genotyped DNA samples from 15,706 SLE patients and healthy matched controls from four different ancestral groups, to correlate polymorphisms of genes of the leptin pathway to risk for SLE. It was found that although several SNPs showed weak associations, those associations did not remain significant after correction for multiple testing. These data do not support associations between defined leptin-related polymorphisms and increased susceptibility to develop SLE.
PMCID: PMC4658308  PMID: 26385092
systemic lupus erythematosus; leptin pathway; gene polymorphisms
4.  TALEN-mediated enhancer knockout influences TNFAIP3 gene expression and mimics a molecular phenotype associated with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2016;17(3):165-170.
Linkage disequilibrium poses a major challenge to the functional characterization of specific disease-associated susceptibility variants. Precision genome editing technologies have provided new opportunities to address this challenge. As proof-of-concept, we employed TALEN-mediated genome editing to specifically disrupt the TT>A enhancer region to mimic candidate causal variants identified in the systemic lupus erythematosus-associated susceptibility gene, TNFAIP3, in an isogenic HEK293T cell line devoid of other linkage disequilibrium-associated variants. Targeted disruption of the TT>A enhancer impaired its interaction with the TNFAIP3 promoter by long-range DNA looping, thereby reducing TNFAIP3 gene expression. Loss of TNFAIP3 mRNA and its encoded protein, A20, impaired TNFα-induced receptor-mediated downregulation of NF-κB signaling; a hallmark of autoimmunity. Results demonstrate that the TT>A enhancer variants contribute to causality and function independently of other variants to disrupt TNFAIP3 expression. Further, we believe this approach can be implemented to independently examine other candidate casual variants in the future.
PMCID: PMC4840072  PMID: 26821284
6.  Expression and methylation data from SLE patient and healthy control blood samples subdivided with respect to ARID3a levels 
Data in Brief  2016;9:213-219.
Previously published studies revealed that variation in expression of the DNA-binding protein ARID3a in B lymphocytes from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlated with levels of disease activity (“Disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus correlates with expression of the transcription factor AT-rich-interactive domain 3A” (J.M. Ward, K. Rose, C. Montgomery, I. Adrianto, J.A. James, J.T. Merrill et al., 2014) [1]). The data presented here compare DNA methylation patterns from SLE peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from samples with high numbers of ARID3a expressing B cells (ARID3aH) versus SLE samples with normal numbers of ARID3a+ B cells (ARID3aN). The methylation data is available at the gene expression omnibus (GEO) repository, “Gene Expression Omnibus: NCBI gene expression and hybridization array data repository” (R. Edgar, M. Domrachev, A.E. Lash, 2002) [2]. Isolated B cells from SLE ARID3aH and ARID3aN B samples were also evaluated via qRT-PCR for Type I interferon (IFN) signature and pathway gene expression levels by qRT-PCR. Similarly, healthy control B cells and B cells stimulated to express ARID3a with the TLR agonist, CpG, were also compared via qRT-PCR. Primers designed to detect 6 IFNa subtype mRNAs were tested in 4 IFNa, Epstein-Barr Virus-transformed B cell lines (“Reduced interferon-alpha production by Epstein-Barr virus transformed B-lymphoblastoid cell lines and lectin-stimulated lymphocytes in congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I” (S.H. Wickramasinghe, R. Hasan, J. Smythe, 1997) [3]). The data in this article support the publication, “Human effector B lymphocytes express ARID3a and secrete interferon alpha” (J.M. Ward, M.L. Ratliff, M.G. Dozmorov, G. Wiley, J.M. Guthridge, P.M. Gaffney, J.A. James, C.F. Webb, 2016) [4].
PMCID: PMC5021782  PMID: 27656675
SLE; B cells; ARID3a
7.  Identification of a systemic lupus erythematosus risk locus spanning ATG16L2, FCHSD2, and P2RY2 in Koreans 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disorder whose etiology is incompletely understood, but likely involves environmental triggers in genetically susceptible individuals. We sought to identify the genetic loci associated with SLE in a Korean population by performing an unbiased genome-wide association scan.
A total of 1,174 Korean SLE cases and 4,248 population controls were genotyped with strict quality control measures and analyzed for association. For select variants, replication was tested in an independent set of 1,412 SLE cases and 1,163 population controls of Korean and Chinese ancestries.
Eleven regions outside the HLA exceeded genome-wide significance (P<5×10−8). A novel SNP-SLE association was identified between FCHSD2 and P2RY2 peaking at rs11235667 (P = 1.0×10−8, odds ratio (OR) = 0.59) on a 33kb haplotype upstream to ATG16L2. Replication for rs11235667 resulted in Pmeta-rep=0.001 and Pmeta-overall=6.67×10−11 (OR=0.63). Within the HLA region, association peaked in the Class II region at rs116727542 with multiple independent effects. Classical HLA allele imputation identified HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-DQB1*0602, both highly correlated, as most strongly associated with SLE. We replicated ten previously established SLE risk loci: STAT1-STAT4, TNFSF4, TNFAIP3, IKZF1, HIP1, IRF5, BLK, WDFY4, ETS1 and IRAK1-MECP2. Of these loci, we identified previously unreported independent second effects in TNFAIP3 and TNFSF4 as well as differences in the association for a putative causal variant in the WDFY4 region.
Further studies are needed to identify true SLE risk effects in other suggestive loci and to identify the causal variant(s) in the regions of ATG16L2, FCHSD2, and P2RY2.
PMCID: PMC4981330  PMID: 26663301
8.  Regulatory polymorphisms modulate the expression of HLA class II molecules and promote autoimmunity 
eLife  null;5:e12089.
Targeted sequencing of sixteen SLE risk loci among 1349 Caucasian cases and controls produced a comprehensive dataset of the variations causing susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Two independent disease association signals in the HLA-D region identified two regulatory regions containing 3562 polymorphisms that modified thirty-seven transcription factor binding sites. These extensive functional variations are a new and potent facet of HLA polymorphism. Variations modifying the consensus binding motifs of IRF4 and CTCF in the XL9 regulatory complex modified the transcription of HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 in a chromosome-specific manner, resulting in a 2.5-fold increase in the surface expression of HLA-DR and DQ molecules on dendritic cells with SLE risk genotypes, which increases to over 4-fold after stimulation. Similar analyses of fifteen other SLE risk loci identified 1206 functional variants tightly linked with disease-associated SNPs and demonstrated that common disease alleles contain multiple causal variants modulating multiple immune system genes.
eLife digest
The human immune system defends the body against microbes and other threats. However, if this process goes wrong the immune system can attack the body’s own healthy cells, which can lead to serious autoimmune diseases.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which immune cells often attack internal organs – including the kidneys, nervous system and heart. Over the past decade, multiple genes have been linked with an increased risk of SLE. However, it is largely unknown how the sequences of these genes differ between individuals with SLE and healthy individuals, and the precise changes that lead to an increased risk of SLE are also not clear.
Now, Raj, Rai et al. have determined the genetic sequences of over 700 people with SLE and over 500 healthy individuals and looked for differences that influence susceptibility to the disease. The vast majority of differences were discovered in stretches of DNA that regulate the expression of nearby genes, rather than in DNA that encodes the structures of proteins. Notably, extensive differences were found in a region of the human genome that regulates the production of proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigen class II molecules; which are known to play a critical role in activating the immune system. Raj, Rai et al. found that slight changes to the regulatory DNA sequences resulted in an overabundance of these proteins, which led to a hyperactive immune system that is strongly associated with SLE.
Future studies could now ask if the changes to the regulatory DNA sequences highlighted by Raj, Rai et al. increase susceptibility to other autoimmune disorders as well. It may also be possible to use the increased understanding of how the immune system is regulated to develop new ways to minimize the rejection of organ transplants.
PMCID: PMC4811771  PMID: 26880555
targeted sequencing; HLA; SLE risk; haplotype; risk allele; LD; Human
9.  Genome-wide association meta-analysis in Chinese and European individuals identifies ten new loci associated with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Nature genetics  2016;48(8):940-946.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 1 152700) is a genetically complex autoimmune disease. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified more than 50 loci as robustly associated with the disease in single ancestries, but genome-wide transancestral studies have not been conducted. We combined three GWAS data sets from Chinese (1,659 cases and 3,398 controls) and European (4,036 cases and 6,959 controls) populations. A meta-analysis of these studies showed that over half of the published SLE genetic associations are present in both populations. A replication study in Chinese (3,043 cases and 5,074 controls) and European (2,643 cases and 9,032 controls) subjects found ten previously unreported SLE loci. Our study provides further evidence that the majority of genetic risk polymorphisms for SLE are contained within the same regions across both populations. Furthermore, a comparison of risk allele frequencies and genetic risk scores suggested that the increased prevalence of SLE in non-Europeans (including Asians) has a genetic basis.
PMCID: PMC4966635  PMID: 27399966
10.  Genetic Association of CD247 (CD3ζ) with SLE in a Large-Scale Multiethnic Study 
Genes and immunity  2015;16(2):142-150.
A classic T-cell phenotype in Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the downregulation and replacement of the CD3ζ chain that alters TCR signaling. However, genetic associations with SLE in the human CD247 locus that encodes CD3ζ are not well established and require replication in independent cohorts. Our aim was therefore to examine, localize and validate CD247-SLE association in a large multi-ethnic population. We typed 44 contiguous CD247 SNPs in 8 922 SLE patients and 8 077 controls from four ethnically distinct populations. The strongest associations were found in the Asian population (11 SNPs in intron 1, 4.99×10−4
PMCID: PMC4371129  PMID: 25569266
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2014;75(1):242-252.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 152700) is characterised by the production of antibodies to nuclear antigens. We previously identified variants in complement receptor 2 (CR2/CD21) that were associated with decreased risk of SLE. This study aimed to identify the causal variant for this association.
Genotyped and imputed genetic variants spanning CR2 were assessed for association with SLE in 15 750 case-control subjects from four ancestral groups. Allele-specific functional effects of associated variants were determined using quantitative real-time PCR, quantitative flow cytometry, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-PCR.
The strongest association signal was detected at rs1876453 in intron 1 of CR2 (pmeta=4.2×10−4, OR 0.85), specifically when subjects were stratified based on the presence of dsDNA autoantibodies (case-control pmeta=7.6×10−7, OR 0.71; case-only pmeta=1.9×10−4, OR 0.75). Although allele-specific effects on B cell CR2 mRNA or protein levels were not identified, levels of complement receptor 1 (CR1/CD35) mRNA and protein were significantly higher on B cells of subjects harbouring the minor allele (p=0.0248 and p=0.0006, respectively). The minor allele altered the formation of several DNA protein complexes by EMSA, including one containing CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF), an effect that was confirmed by ChIP-PCR.
These data suggest that rs1876453 in CR2 has long-range effects on gene regulation that decrease susceptibility to lupus. Since the minor allele at rs1876453 is preferentially associated with reduced risk of the highly specific dsDNA autoantibodies that are present in preclinical, active and severe lupus, understanding its mechanisms will have important therapeutic implications.
PMCID: PMC4717392  PMID: 25180293
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Autoantibodies; Gene Polymorphism; B cells
Kottyan, Leah C. | Zoller, Erin E. | Bene, Jessica | Lu, Xiaoming | Kelly, Jennifer A. | Rupert, Andrew M. | Lessard, Christopher J. | Vaughn, Samuel E. | Marion, Miranda | Weirauch, Matthew T. | Namjou, Bahram | Adler, Adam | Rasmussen, Astrid | Glenn, Stuart | Montgomery, Courtney G. | Hirschfield, Gideon M. | Xie, Gang | Coltescu, Catalina | Amos, Chris | Li, He | Ice, John A. | Nath, Swapan K. | Mariette, Xavier | Bowman, Simon | Rischmueller, Maureen | Lester, Sue | Brun, Johan G. | Gøransson, Lasse G. | Harboe, Erna | Omdal, Roald | Cunninghame-Graham, Deborah S. | Vyse, Tim | Miceli-Richard, Corinne | Brennan, Michael T. | Lessard, James A. | Wahren-Herlenius, Marie | Kvarnström, Marika | Illei, Gabor G. | Witte, Torsten | Jonsson, Roland | Eriksson, Per | Nordmark, Gunnel | Ng, Wan-Fai | Anaya, Juan-Manuel | Rhodus, Nelson L. | Segal, Barbara M. | Merrill, Joan T. | James, Judith A. | Guthridge, Joel M. | Hal Scofield, R. | Alarcon-Riquelme, Marta | Bae, Sang-Cheol | Boackle, Susan A. | Criswell, Lindsey A. | Gilkeson, Gary | Kamen, Diane L. | Jacob, Chaim O. | Kimberly, Robert | Brown, Elizabeth | Edberg, Jeffrey | Alarcón, Graciela S. | Reveille, John D. | Vilá, Luis M. | Petri, Michelle | Ramsey-Goldman, Rosalind | Freedman, Barry I. | Niewold, Timothy | Stevens, Anne M. | Tsao, Betty P. | Ying, Jun | Mayes, Maureen D. | Gorlova, Olga Y. | Wakeland, Ward | Radstake, Timothy | Martin, Ezequiel | Martin, Javier | Siminovitch, Katherine | Moser Sivils, Kathy L. | Gaffney, Patrick M. | Langefeld, Carl D. | Harley, John B. | Kaufman, Kenneth M.
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;24(2):582-596.
Exploiting genotyping, DNA sequencing, imputation and trans-ancestral mapping, we used Bayesian and frequentist approaches to model the IRF5–TNPO3 locus association, now implicated in two immunotherapies and seven autoimmune diseases. Specifically, in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), we resolved separate associations in the IRF5 promoter (all ancestries) and with an extended European haplotype. We captured 3230 IRF5–TNPO3 high-quality, common variants across 5 ethnicities in 8395 SLE cases and 7367 controls. The genetic effect from the IRF5 promoter can be explained by any one of four variants in 5.7 kb (P-valuemeta = 6 × 10−49; OR = 1.38–1.97). The second genetic effect spanned an 85.5-kb, 24-variant haplotype that included the genes IRF5 and TNPO3 (P-valuesEU = 10−27–10−32, OR = 1.7–1.81). Many variants at the IRF5 locus with previously assigned biological function are not members of either final credible set of potential causal variants identified herein. In addition to the known biologically functional variants, we demonstrated that the risk allele of rs4728142, a variant in the promoter among the lowest frequentist probability and highest Bayesian posterior probability, was correlated with IRF5 expression and differentially binds the transcription factor ZBTB3. Our analytical strategy provides a novel framework for future studies aimed at dissecting etiological genetic effects. Finally, both SLE elements of the statistical model appear to operate in Sjögren's syndrome and systemic sclerosis whereas only the IRF5–TNPO3 gene-spanning haplotype is associated with primary biliary cirrhosis, demonstrating the nuance of similarity and difference in autoimmune disease risk mechanisms at IRF5–TNPO3.
PMCID: PMC4275071  PMID: 25205108
Genotyping variants in the human genome has proven to be an efficient method to identify genetic associations with phenotypes. The distribution of variants within families or populations can facilitate identification of the genetic factors of disease. Illumina's panel of genotyping BeadChips allows investigators to genotype thousands or millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or to analyze other genomic variants, such as copy number, across a large number of DNA samples. These SNPs can be spread throughout the genome or targeted in specific regions in order to maximize potential discovery. The Infinium assay has been optimized to yield high-quality, accurate results quickly. With proper setup, a single technician can process from a few hundred to over a thousand DNA samples per week, depending on the type of array. This assay guides users through every step, starting with genomic DNA and ending with the scanning of the array. Using propriety reagents, samples are amplified, fragmented, precipitated, resuspended, hybridized to the chip, extended by a single base, stained, and scanned on either an iScan or Hi Scan high-resolution optical imaging system. One overnight step is required to amplify the DNA. The DNA is denatured and isothermally amplified by whole-genome amplification; therefore, no PCR is required. Samples are hybridized to the arrays during a second overnight step. By the third day, the samples are ready to be scanned and analyzed. Amplified DNA may be stockpiled in large quantities, allowing bead arrays to be processed every day of the week, thereby maximizing throughput.
PMCID: PMC3991437  PMID: 24300335
Basic Protocol; Issue 81; genomics; SNP; Genotyping; Infinium; iScan; HiScan; Illumina
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
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
Nature communications  2015;6:6505.
Recent studies suggest that gut microbiomes of urban-industrialized societies are different from those of traditional peoples. Here, we examine the relationship between lifeways and gut microbiota through taxonomic and functional potential characterization of fecal samples from hunter-gatherer and traditional agriculturalist communities in Peru, and an urban-industrialized community from the US. We find that in addition to taxonomic and metabolic differences between urban and traditional lifestyles, hunter-gatherers form a distinct sub-group among traditional peoples. As observed in previous studies, we find that Treponema are characteristic of traditional gut microbiomes. Moreover, through genome reconstruction (2.2–2.5 MB, coverage depth 26-513×) and functional potential characterization, we discover these Treponema are diverse, fall outside of pathogenic clades, and are similar to Treponema succinifaciens, a known carbohydrate metabolizer in swine. Gut Treponema are found in non-human primates and all traditional peoples studied to date, suggesting they are symbionts lost in urban-industrialized societies.
PMCID: PMC4386023  PMID: 25807110
Nature Communications  2015;6:6505.
Recent studies suggest that gut microbiomes of urban-industrialized societies are different from those of traditional peoples. Here we examine the relationship between lifeways and gut microbiota through taxonomic and functional potential characterization of faecal samples from hunter-gatherer and traditional agriculturalist communities in Peru and an urban-industrialized community from the US. We find that in addition to taxonomic and metabolic differences between urban and traditional lifestyles, hunter-gatherers form a distinct sub-group among traditional peoples. As observed in previous studies, we find that Treponema are characteristic of traditional gut microbiomes. Moreover, through genome reconstruction (2.2–2.5 MB, coverage depth × 26–513) and functional potential characterization, we discover these Treponema are diverse, fall outside of pathogenic clades and are similar to Treponema succinifaciens, a known carbohydrate metabolizer in swine. Gut Treponema are found in non-human primates and all traditional peoples studied to date, suggesting they are symbionts lost in urban-industrialized societies.
The gut microbiomes of urban-industrialized societies differ from those of traditional rural societies and hunter-gatherers. Here the authors perform a comparative analysis of available and new gut microbiome data to provide fresh insight into these differences.
PMCID: PMC4386023  PMID: 25807110
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(6):1656-1668.
Recent reports have associated NCF2, encoding a core component of the multi-protein NADPH oxidase (NADPHO), with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility in individuals of European ancestry. To identify ethnicity-specific and -robust variants within NCF2, we assessed 145 SNPs in and around the NCF2 gene in 5325 cases and 21 866 controls of European-American (EA), African-American (AA), Hispanic (HS) and Korean (KR) ancestry. Subsequent imputation, conditional, haplotype and bioinformatic analyses identified seven potentially functional SLE-predisposing variants. Association with non-synonymous rs17849502, previously reported in EA, was detected in EA, HS and AA (PEA = 1.01 × 10−54, PHS = 3.68 × 10−10, PAA = 0.03); synonymous rs17849501 was similarly significant. These SNPs were monomorphic in KR. Novel associations were detected with coding variants at rs35937854 in AA (PAA = 1.49 × 10−9), and rs13306575 in HS and KR (PHS = 7.04 × 10−7, PKR = 3.30 × 10−3). In KR, a 3-SNP haplotype was significantly associated (P = 4.20 × 10−7), implying that SLE predisposing variants were tagged. Significant SNP–SNP interaction (P = 0.02) was detected between rs13306575 and rs17849502 in HS, and a dramatically increased risk (OR = 6.55) with a risk allele at each locus. Molecular modeling predicts that these non-synonymous mutations could disrupt NADPHO complex assembly. The risk allele of rs17849501, located in a conserved transcriptional regulatory region, increased reporter gene activity, suggesting in vivo enhancer function. Our results not only establish allelic heterogeneity within NCF2 associated with SLE, but also emphasize the utility of multi-ethnic cohorts to identify predisposing variants explaining additional phenotypic variance (‘missing heritability’) of complex diseases like SLE.
PMCID: PMC3929085  PMID: 24163247
Genes and immunity  2014;15(6):347-354.
In a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) of individuals of European ancestry afflicted with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) the extensive utilization of imputation, stepwise multiple regression, lasso regularization, and increasing study power by utilizing False Discovery Rate (FDR) instead of a Bonferroni multiple test correction enabled us to identify 13 novel non-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes and confirmed the association of 4 genes previously reported to be associated. Novel genes associated with SLE susceptibility included two transcription factors (EHF, and MED1), two components of the NFκB pathway (RASSF2 and RNF114), one gene involved in adhesion and endothelial migration (CNTN6), and two genes involved in antigen presentation (BIN1 and SEC61G). In addition, the strongly significant association of multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HLA region was assigned to HLA alleles and serotypes and deconvoluted into four primary signals. The novel SLE-associated genes point to new directions for both the diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC4156543  PMID: 24871463
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
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115614.
To explore the potential influence of the polymorphic 8p23.1 inversion on known autoimmune susceptibility risk at or near BLK locus, we validated a new bioinformatics method that utilizes SNP data to enable accurate, high-throughput genotyping of the 8p23.1 inversion in a Caucasian population. Methods: Principal components analysis (PCA) was performed using markers inside the inversion territory followed by k-means cluster analyses on 7416 European derived and 267 HapMaP CEU and TSI samples. A logistic regression conditional analysis was performed. Results: Three subgroups have been identified; inversion homozygous, heterozygous and non-inversion homozygous. The status of inversion was further validated using HapMap samples that had previously undergone Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) assays with a concordance rate of above 98%. Conditional analyses based on the status of inversion were performed. We found that overall association signals in the BLK region remain significant after controlling for inversion status. The proportion of lupus cases and controls (cases/controls) in each subgroup was determined to be 0.97 for the inverted homozygous group (1067 cases and 1095 controls), 1.12 for the inverted heterozygous group (1935 cases 1717 controls) and 1.36 for non-inverted subgroups (924 cases and 678 controls). After calculating the linkage disequilibrium between inversion status and lupus risk haplotype we found that the lupus risk haplotype tends to reside on non-inversion background. As a result, a new association effect between non-inversion status and lupus phenotype has been identified ((p = 8.18×10−7, OR = 1.18, 95%CI = 1.10–1.26). Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that both known lupus risk haplotype and inversion status act additively in the pathogenesis of lupus. Since inversion regulates expression of many genes in its territory, altered expression of other genes might also be involved in the development of lupus.
PMCID: PMC4278715  PMID: 25545785
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):253-258.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, OMIM 152700) is an autoimmune disease characterized by self-reactive antibodies resulting in systemic inflammation and organ failure. TNFAIP3, encoding the ubiquitin-modifying enzyme A20, is an established susceptibility locus for SLE. By fine mapping and genomic resequencing in ethnically diverse populations we fully characterized the TNFAIP3 risk haplotype and isolated a novel TT>A polymorphic dinucleotide associated with SLE in subjects of European (P = 1.58 × 10−8; odds ratio (OR) = 1.70) and Korean (P = 8.33 × 10−10; OR = 2.54) ancestry. This variant, located in a region of high conservation and regulatory potential, bound a nuclear protein complex comprised of NF-κB subunits with reduced avidity. Furthermore, compared with the non-risk haplotype, the haplotype carrying this variant resulted in reduced TNFAIP3 mRNA and A20 protein expression. These results establish this TT>A variant as the most likely functional polymorphism responsible for the association between TNFAIP3 and SLE.
PMCID: PMC3103780  PMID: 21336280
Next-generation DNA sequencing has revolutionized the field of genetics and genomics, providing researchers with the tools to efficiently identify novel rare and low frequency risk variants, which was not practical with previously available methodologies. These methods allow for the sequence capture of a specific locus or small genetic region all the way up to the entire six billion base pairs of the diploid human genome.
Rheumatic diseases are a huge burden on the US population, affecting more than 46 million Americans. Those afflicted suffer from one or more of the more than 100 diseases characterized by inflammation and loss of function, mainly of the joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. While genetics studies of many of these diseases (for example, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease) have had major successes in defining their genetic architecture, causal alleles and rare variants have still been elusive. This review describes the current high-throughput DNA sequencing methodologies commercially available and their application to rheumatic diseases in both case–control as well as family-based studies.
PMCID: PMC4396863  PMID: 25789374
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
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):470-477.
TNFAIP3 encodes the ubiquitin modifying enzyme, A20, a key regulator of inflammatory signaling pathways. We previously reported association between TNFAIP3 variants and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In order to further localize the risk variant(s), we performed a meta-analysis using genetic data available from two Caucasian case/control datasets (1453 total cases, 3381 total controls) and 713 SLE trio families. The best result was found at rs5029939 (P = 1.67 × 10−14, OR = 2.09, 95% CI 1.68–2.60). We then imputed SNPs from the CEU Phase II HapMap using genotypes from 431 SLE cases and 2155 controls. Imputation identified eleven SNPs in addition to three observed SNPs, which together, defined a 109 kb SLE risk segment surrounding TNFAIP3. When evaluating whether the rs5029939 risk allele was associated with SLE clinical manifestations, we observed that heterozygous carriers of the TNFAIP3 risk allele at rs5029939 have a two-fold increased risk of developing renal or hematologic manifestations compared to homozygous non-risk subjects. In summary, our study strengthens the genetic evidence that variants in the region of TNFAIP3 influence risk for SLE, particularly in patients with renal and hematologic manifestations, and narrows the risk effect to a 109 kb DNA segment that spans the TNFAIP3 gene.
PMCID: PMC2714405  PMID: 19387456
systemic lupus erythematosus; TNFAIP3; imputation; meta-analysis

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