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1.  The Effect of Inversion at 8p23 on BLK Association with Lupus in Caucasian Population 
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
2.  Combined protein- and nucleic acid-level effects of rs1143679 (R77H), a lupus-predisposing variant within ITGAM 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(15):4161-4176.
Integrin alpha M (ITGAM; CD11b) is a component of the macrophage-1 antigen complex, which mediates leukocyte adhesion, migration and phagocytosis as part of the immune system. We previously identified a missense polymorphism, rs1143679 (R77H), strongly associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, the molecular mechanisms of this variant are incompletely understood. A meta-analysis of published and novel data on 28 439 individuals with European, African, Hispanic and Asian ancestries reinforces genetic association between rs1143679 and SLE [Pmeta = 3.60 × 10−90, odds ratio (OR) = 1.76]. Since rs1143679 is in the most active region of chromatin regulation and transcription factor binding in ITGAM, we quantitated ITGAM RNA and surface protein levels in monocytes from patients with each rs1143679 genotype. We observed that transcript levels significantly decreased for the risk allele (‘A’) relative to the non-risk allele (‘G’), in a dose-dependent fashion: (‘AA’ < ‘AG’ < ‘GG’). CD11b protein levels in patients' monocytes were directly correlated with RNA levels. Strikingly, heterozygous individuals express much lower (average 10- to 15-fold reduction) amounts of the ‘A’ transcript than ‘G’ transcript. We found that the non-risk sequence surrounding rs1143679 exhibits transcriptional enhancer activity in vivo and binds to Ku70/80, NFKB1 and EBF1 in vitro, functions that are significantly reduced with the risk allele. Mutant CD11b protein shows significantly reduced binding to fibrinogen and vitronectin, relative to non-risk, both in purified protein and in cellular models. This two-pronged contribution (nucleic acid- and protein-level) of the rs1143679 risk allele to decreasing ITGAM activity provides insight into the molecular mechanisms of its potent association with SLE.
PMCID: PMC4082363  PMID: 24608226
3.  Genetic Analysis of the Pathogenic Molecular Sub-phenotype Interferon Alpha Identifies Multiple Novel Loci Involved in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2014;16(1):15-23.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of multiple organ systems and dysregulated interferon responses. SLE is both genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous, greatly reducing the power of case-control studies in SLE. Elevated circulating interferon alpha (IFN-α) is a stable, heritable trait in SLE, which has been implicated in primary disease pathogenesis. 40–50% of patients have high IFN-α, and high levels correspond with clinical differences. To study genetic heterogeneity in SLE, we performed a case-case study comparing patients with high vs. low IFN-α in over 1550 SLE cases, including GWAS and replication cohorts. In meta-analysis, the top associations in European ancestry were PRKG1 rs7897633 (PMeta=2.75 × 10−8) and PNP rs1049564 (PMeta=1.24 × 10−7). We also found evidence for cross-ancestral background associations with the ANKRD44 and PLEKHF2 loci. These loci have not been previously identified in case-control SLE genetic studies. Bioinformatic analyses implicated these loci functionally in dendritic cells and natural killer cells, both of which are involved in IFN-α production in SLE. As case-control studies of heterogeneous diseases reach a limit of feasibility with respect to subject number and detectable effect size, the study of informative pathogenic subphenotypes becomes an attractive strategy for genetic discovery in complex disease.
PMCID: PMC4305028  PMID: 25338677
4.  Horizons in Sjögren’s Syndrome Genetics 
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a complex polygenic autoimmune disorder. A few major genetic effects have been identified. Historically, HLA and non-HLA genetic associations have been reported. Recently, the HLA region continued to reveal association findings. A new susceptibility region has been suggested by a study of a D6S349 microsatellite marker. Among non-HLA studies, recent association of immunoglobulin κ chain allotype KM1 with anti-La autoantibodies in primary Sjögren’s syndrome confirms findings in a study from two decades ago. Meanwhile, mouse models have been employed to study the genetic contribution to salivary lymphadenitis or dry eyes and mouth. Gene transfer exploration in mouse models shows promise. The authors review the HLA and non-HLA association studies and the mouse model work that has been reported. Newly developed genomic capacity will provide, in the future, a much closer approximation of the true picture of the genetic architecture of Sjögren’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4420170  PMID: 17963047
Sjögren’s syndrome; Genetics; HLA; Histocompatibility
5.  Smoking is not associated with autoantibody production in systemic lupus erythematosus patients, unaffected first-degree relatives, nor healthy controls 
Lupus  2014;23(4):360-369.
To examine whether smoking is associated with autoantibody production in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, unaffected first-degree relatives (FDR) of individuals with SLE - a group at increased risk of developing SLE, or unaffected, unrelated controls.
Detailed demographic, environmental, clinical, and therapeutic information was collected by questionnaire on 1,242 SLE patients, 981 FDRs, and 946 controls in the Lupus Family Registry and Repository; a blood sample was obtained. All sera were tested for multiple lupus autoantibodies by immunofluorescence and luminex bead-based assays. Generalized estimating equations, adjusting for age, gender, and ethnicity and accounting for correlation within families, were used to assess smoking status with the dichotomous outcome variables of positivity for SLE status, positivity of ANA by immunofluorescence (≥ 1:120), positivity for ≥ 1 autoantibody by the luminex assay, and positivity for each of the 11 autoantibodies.
Current smoking was associated with being positive for ≥ 1 autoantibody (excluding ANA) (adjusted OR=1.53, 95% CI 1.04–2.24) in our subjects with SLE. No association was observed in unaffected FDRs or healthy controls. Former smoking was associated with anti-Ro/SS-A60 in our unaffected FDRs. There was an increased association with anti-nRNP A seropositivity, as well as a decreased association with anti-nRNP 68 positivity, in current smokers in SLE subjects.
No clear association between smoking status and individual autoantibodies was detected in SLE patients, unaffected FDRs, nor healthy controls within this collection. The association of smoking with SLE may therefore manifest its risk through mechanisms outside of autoantibody production, at least for the specificities tested.
PMCID: PMC3954895  PMID: 24449338
Smoking; autoantibodies; systemic lupus erythematosus
6.  Allelic heterogeneity in NCF2 associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility across four ethnic populations 
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
7.  GWAS identifies novel SLE susceptibility genes and explains the association of the HLA region 
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
8.  Whole Exome Sequencing Reveals Overlap Between Macrophage Activation Syndrome in Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis 
Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS), a life-threatening complication of systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (SJIA), resembles Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (FHLH), a constellation of autosomal recessive immune disorders resulting from deficiency in cytolytic pathway proteins. We hypothesized that MAS predisposition in SJIA could be attributed to rare gene sequence variants affecting the cytotolytic pathway.
Whole exome sequencing (WES) was used in 14 SJIA/MAS patients and their parents to identify protein altering SNPs/indels in the known HLH-associated genes. To discover new candidate genes, the entire WES data were filtered to identify protein altering, rare recessive homozygous, compound heterozygous, and de novo variants with the potential to affect the cytolytic pathway.
Heterozygous protein-altering rare variants in the known genes (LYST, MUNC13-4, and STXBP2) were found in 5 of 14 SJIA/MAS patients (35.7%). This was in contrast to only 4 variants in 4 of 29 (13,7%) SJIA patients without MAS. Homozygosity and compound heterozygosity analysis applied to the entire WES data in SJIAMAS, revealed 3 recessive pairs in 3 genes, and 76 compound heterozygotes in 75 genes. We also identified 22 heterozygous rare protein altering variants that occurred in at least two patients. Many of the identified genes encode proteins with a role in actin and microtubule reorganization and vesicle-mediated transport. “Cellular assembly and organization” was the top cellular function category based on Ingenuity Pathways Analysis (p<3.10E-05).
WES performed in SJIA/MAS patients identified rare protein altering variants in the known HLH associated genes as well as new candidate genes.
PMCID: PMC4321811  PMID: 25047945
9.  Genome-wide association analysis of eosinophilic esophagitis provides insight into the tissue specificity of this allergic disease 
Nature genetics  2014;46(8):895-900.
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic inflammatory disorder associated with allergic hypersensitivity to food. We interrogated >1.5 million genetic variants in European EoE cases and subsequently in a multi-site cohort with local and out-of-study control subjects. In addition to replication of the 5q22 locus (meta-analysis p = 1.9×10−16), we identified association at 2p23 (encoding CAPN14, p = 2.5×10−10). CAPN14 was specifically expressed in the esophagus, dynamically upregulated as a function of disease activity and genetic haplotype and after exposure of epithelial cells to IL-13, and located in an epigenetic hotspot modified by IL-13. There was enriched esophageal expression for the genes neighboring the top 208 EoE sequence variants. Multiple allergic sensitization loci were associated with EoE susceptibility (4.8×10−2 < p < 5.1×10−11). We propose a model that elucidates the tissue specific nature of EoE that involves the interplay of allergic sensitization with an EoE-specific, IL-13–inducible esophageal response involving CAPN14.
PMCID: PMC4121957  PMID: 25017104
10.  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
11.  Phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) in EMR-linked pediatric cohorts, genetically links PLCL1 to speech language development and IL5-IL13 to Eosinophilic Esophagitis 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:401.
Objective: We report the first pediatric specific Phenome-Wide Association Study (PheWAS) using electronic medical records (EMRs). Given the early success of PheWAS in adult populations, we investigated the feasibility of this approach in pediatric cohorts in which associations between a previously known genetic variant and a wide range of clinical or physiological traits were evaluated. Although computationally intensive, this approach has potential to reveal disease mechanistic relationships between a variant and a network of phenotypes.
Method: Data on 5049 samples of European ancestry were obtained from the EMRs of two large academic centers in five different genotyped cohorts. Recently, these samples have undergone whole genome imputation. After standard quality controls, removing missing data and outliers based on principal components analyses (PCA), 4268 samples were used for the PheWAS study. We scanned for associations between 2476 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) with available genotyping data from previously published GWAS studies and 539 EMR-derived phenotypes. The false discovery rate was calculated and, for any new PheWAS findings, a permutation approach (with up to 1,000,000 trials) was implemented.
Results: This PheWAS found a variety of common variants (MAF > 10%) with prior GWAS associations in our pediatric cohorts including Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), Asthma, Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Type 1 Diabetes with a false discovery rate < 0.05 and power of study above 80%. In addition, several new PheWAS findings were identified including a cluster of association near the NDFIP1 gene for mental retardation (best SNP rs10057309, p = 4.33 × 10−7, OR = 1.70, 95%CI = 1.38 − 2.09); association near PLCL1 gene for developmental delays and speech disorder [best SNP rs1595825, p = 1.13 × 10−8, OR = 0.65(0.57 − 0.76)]; a cluster of associations in the IL5-IL13 region with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) [best at rs12653750, p = 3.03 × 10−9, OR = 1.73 95%CI = (1.44 − 2.07)], previously implicated in asthma, allergy, and eosinophilia; and association of variants in GCKR and JAZF1 with allergic rhinitis in our pediatric cohorts [best SNP rs780093, p = 2.18 × 10−5, OR = 1.39, 95%CI = (1.19 − 1.61)], previously demonstrated in metabolic disease and diabetes in adults.
Conclusion: The PheWAS approach with re-mapping ICD-9 structured codes for our European-origin pediatric cohorts, as with the previous adult studies, finds many previously reported associations as well as presents the discovery of associations with potentially important clinical implications.
PMCID: PMC4235428  PMID: 25477900
PheWAS; ICD-9 code; genetic polymorphism
14.  Variants at multiple loci implicated in both innate and adaptive immune responses are associated with Sjögren’s syndrome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2792.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a common autoimmune disease (~0.7% of European Americans) typically presenting as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and xerostomia. In addition to strong association within the HLA region at 6p21 (Pmeta=7.65×10−114), we establish associations with IRF5-TNPO3 (Pmeta=2.73×10−19), STAT4 (Pmeta=6.80×10−15), IL12A (Pmeta =1.17×10−10), FAM167A-BLK (Pmeta=4.97×10−10), DDX6-CXCR5 (Pmeta=1.10×10−8), and TNIP1 (Pmeta=3.30×10−8). Suggestive associations with Pmeta<5×10−5 were observed with 29 regions including TNFAIP3, PTTG1, PRDM1, DGKQ, FCGR2A, IRAK1BP1, ITSN2, and PHIP amongst others. These results highlight the importance of genes involved in both innate and adaptive immunity in Sjögren’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3867192  PMID: 24097067
15.  End-Stage Renal Disease in African Americans With Lupus Nephritis Is Associated With APOL1 
Lupus nephritis (LN) is a severe manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that exhibits familial aggregation and may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). LN is more prevalent among African Americans than among European Americans. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) nephropathy risk alleles G1/G2, common in African Americans and rare in European Americans, contribute to the ethnic disparity in risk.
APOL1 G1 and G2 nephropathy alleles were genotyped in 855 African American SLE patients with LN-ESRD (cases) and 534 African American SLE patients without nephropathy (controls) and tested for association under a recessive genetic model, by logistic regression.
Ninety percent of the SLE patients were female. The mean ± SD age at SLE diagnosis was significantly lower in LN-ESRD cases than in SLE non-nephropathy controls (27.3 ± 10.9 years versus 39.5 ± 12.2 years). The mean ± SD time from SLE diagnosis to development of LN-ESRD in cases was 7.3 ± 7.2 years. The G1/G2 risk alleles were strongly associated with SLE-ESRD, with 25% of cases and 12% of controls having 2 nephropathy alleles (odds ratio [OR] 2.57, recessive model P = 1.49 × 10−9), and after adjustment for age, sex, and ancestry admixture (OR 2.72, P = 6.23 × 10−6). The age-, sex-, and admixture-adjusted population attributable risk for ESRD among patients with G1/G2 polymorphisms was 0.26, compared to 0.003 among European American patients. The mean time from SLE diagnosis to ESRD development was ~2 years earlier among individuals with APOL1 risk genotypes (P = 0.01).
APOL1 G1/G2 alleles strongly impact the risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans, as well as the time to progression to ESRD. The high frequency of these alleles in African Americans with near absence in European Americans explains an important proportion of the increased risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC4002759  PMID: 24504811
16.  Excess female siblings and male fetal loss in families with systemic lupus erythematosus 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(4):430-434.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) occurs more frequently among woman than men. We undertook the present study to determine whether the male-female ratio in SLE families is different than expected by chance, and whether excess male fetal loss is found.
All SLE patients met the revised American College of Rheumatology Classification criteria, while SLE-unaffected subjects were shown not to satisfy these same criteria. Putative family relationships were confirmed by genetic testing. Pregnancy history was obtained from all subjects, including unrelated control woman. Adjusted Wald binomial confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for ratio of boys to girls in families and compared to the expected ratio of 1.06
There were 2578 subjects with SLE with 6056 siblings. Considering all subjects, we found 3201 boys and 5434 girls (ratio=0.59, of 95% CI 0.576–0.602). When considering only the SLE-unaffected siblings, there were 2919 boys and 3137 girls (ratio=0.93, 95%CI 0.92–0.94). In both cases, the ratio of males-to-females is statistically different than the known birth rate. Among SLE patients as well as among their sisters and mothers there was an excess of male fetal loss compared to the controls.
Siblings of SLE patients are more likely to be girls than expected. This finding may be in part explained by excess male fetal loss, which is found among SLE patients and their first degree relatives.
PMCID: PMC3693848  PMID: 23378464
Systemic lupus erythematosus; sex ratio; fetal loss; pregnancy
17.  The Lupus Family Registry and Repository 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2010;50(1):47-59.
The Lupus Family Registry and Repository (LFRR) was established with the goal of assembling and distributing materials and data from families with one or more living members diagnosed with SLE, in order to address SLE genetics. In the present article, we describe the problems and solutions of the registry design and biometric data gathering; the protocols implemented to guarantee data quality and protection of participant privacy and consent; and the establishment of a local and international network of collaborators. At the same time, we illustrate how the LFRR has enabled progress in lupus genetics research, answering old scientific questions while laying out new challenges in the elucidation of the biologic mechanisms that underlie disease pathogenesis. Trained staff ascertain SLE cases, unaffected family members and population-based controls, proceeding in compliance with the relevant laws and standards; participant consent and privacy are central to the LFRR’s effort. Data, DNA, serum, plasma, peripheral blood and transformed B-cell lines are collected and stored, and subject to strict quality control and safety measures. Coded data and materials derived from the registry are available for approved scientific users. The LFRR has contributed to the discovery of most of the 37 genetic associations now known to contribute to lupus through 104 publications. The LFRR contains 2618 lupus cases from 1954 pedigrees that are being studied by 76 approved users and their collaborators. The registry includes difficult to obtain populations, such as multiplex pedigrees, minority patients and affected males, and constitutes the largest collection of lupus pedigrees in the world. The LFRR is a useful resource for the discovery and characterization of genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3307518  PMID: 20864496
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Registry; Repository; Autoimmune diseases; Genetics; Heritability; Genome-wide association studies; Linkage analysis; Minorities; Women
18.  The struggle to find reliable results in exome sequencing data: filtering out Mendelian errors 
Next Generation Sequencing studies generate a large quantity of genetic data in a relatively cost and time efficient manner and provide an unprecedented opportunity to identify candidate causative variants that lead to disease phenotypes. A challenge to these studies is the generation of sequencing artifacts by current technologies. To identify and characterize the properties that distinguish false positive variants from true variants, we sequenced a child and both parents (one trio) using DNA isolated from three sources (blood, buccal cells, and saliva). The trio strategy allowed us to identify variants in the proband that could not have been inherited from the parents (Mendelian errors) and would most likely indicate sequencing artifacts. Quality control measurements were examined and three measurements were found to identify the greatest number of Mendelian errors. These included read depth, genotype quality score, and alternate allele ratio. Filtering the variants on these measurements removed ~95% of the Mendelian errors while retaining 80% of the called variants. These filters were applied independently. After filtering, the concordance between identical samples isolated from different sources was 99.99% as compared to 87% before filtering. This high concordance suggests that different sources of DNA can be used in trio studies without affecting the ability to identify causative polymorphisms. To facilitate analysis of next generation sequencing data, we developed the Cincinnati Analytical Suite for Sequencing Informatics (CASSI) to store sequencing files, metadata (eg. relatedness information), file versioning, data filtering, variant annotation, and identify candidate causative polymorphisms that follow either de novo, rare recessive homozygous or compound heterozygous inheritance models. We conclude the data cleaning process improves the signal to noise ratio in terms of variants and facilitates the identification of candidate disease causative polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC3921572  PMID: 24575121
whole exome sequencing; variant filtering; next-generation sequencing; disease causative polymorphisms; Mendelian errors; Mendel errors; CASSI
19.  Comparison of the American-European Consensus Group Sjögren's syndrome classification criteria to newly proposed American College of Rheumatology criteria in a large, carefully characterized sicca cohort 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(1):10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203845.
To compare the performance of the American-European Consensus Group (AECG) and the newly proposed American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification criteria for Sjögren's syndrome in a well-characterized sicca cohort, given ongoing efforts to resolve discrepancies and weaknesses in the systems.
In a multidisciplinary clinic for the evaluation of sicca, we assessed features of salivary and lacrimal gland dysfunction and autoimmunity as defined by tests of both AECG and ACR criteria in 646 participants. Global gene expression profiles were compared in a subset of 180 participants.
Application of the AECG and ACR criteria resulted in classification of 279 and 268 participants with SS, respectively. Both criteria were met by 244 participants (81%). In 26 of the 35 AECG+/ACR- participants, the minor salivary gland biopsy focal score was ≥1 (74%), while 9 had positive anti-Ro/La (26%). There were 24 AECG-/ACR+ who met ACR criteria mainly due to differences in the scoring of corneal staining. All patients with SS, regardless of classification, had similar gene expression profiles, which were distinct from the healthy controls.
The two sets of classification criteria yield concordant results in the majority of cases and gene expression profiling suggests that patients meeting either set of criteria are more similar to other SS participants than to healthy controls. Thus, there is no clear evidence for increased value of the new ACR criteria over the old AECG criteria from the clinical or biological perspective. It is our contention, supported by this report, that improvements in diagnostic acumen will require a more fundamental understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms than is at present available.
PMCID: PMC3855629  PMID: 23968620
Sjögren's syndrome; Classification; Diagnosis
20.  EMR-linked GWAS study: investigation of variation landscape of loci for body mass index in children 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:268.
Common variations at the loci harboring the fat mass and obesity gene (FTO), MC4R, and TMEM18 are consistently reported as being associated with obesity and body mass index (BMI) especially in adult population. In order to confirm this effect in pediatric population five European ancestry cohorts from pediatric eMERGE-II network (CCHMC-BCH) were evaluated.
Method: Data on 5049 samples of European ancestry were obtained from the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) of two large academic centers in five different genotyped cohorts. For all available samples, gender, age, height, and weight were collected and BMI was calculated. To account for age and sex differences in BMI, BMI z-scores were generated using 2000 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts. A Genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed with BMI z-score. After removing missing data and outliers based on principal components (PC) analyses, 2860 samples were used for the GWAS study. The association between each single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and BMI was tested using linear regression adjusting for age, gender, and PC by cohort. The effects of SNPs were modeled assuming additive, recessive, and dominant effects of the minor allele. Meta-analysis was conducted using a weighted z-score approach.
Results: The mean age of subjects was 9.8 years (range 2–19). The proportion of male subjects was 56%. In these cohorts, 14% of samples had a BMI ≥95 and 28 ≥ 85%. Meta analyses produced a signal at 16q12 genomic region with the best result of p = 1.43 × 10-7 [p(rec) = 7.34 × 10-8) for the SNP rs8050136 at the first intron of FTO gene (z = 5.26) and with no heterogeneity between cohorts (p = 0.77). Under a recessive model, another published SNP at this locus, rs1421085, generates the best result [z = 5.782, p(rec) = 8.21 × 10-9]. Imputation in this region using dense 1000-Genome and Hapmap CEU samples revealed 71 SNPs with p < 10-6, all at the first intron of FTO locus. When hetero-geneity was permitted between cohorts, signals were also obtained in other previously identified loci, including MC4R (rs12964056, p = 6.87 × 10-7, z = -4.98), cholecystokinin CCK (rs8192472, p = 1.33 × 10-6, z = -4.85), Interleukin 15 (rs2099884, p = 1.27 × 10-5, z = 4.34), low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1B [LRP1B (rs7583748, p = 0.00013, z = -3.81)] and near transmembrane protein 18 (TMEM18) (rs7561317, p = 0.001, z = -3.17). We also detected a novel locus at chromosome 3 at COL6A5 [best SNP = rs1542829, minor allele frequency (MAF) of 5% p = 4.35 × 10-9, z = 5.89].
Conclusion: An EMR linked cohort study demonstrates that the BMI-Z measurements can be successfully extracted and linked to genomic data with meaningful confirmatory results. We verified the high prevalence of childhood rate of overweight and obesity in our cohort (28%). In addition, our data indicate that genetic variants in the first intron of FTO, a known adult genetic risk factor for BMI, are also robustly associated with BMI in pediatric population.
PMCID: PMC3847941  PMID: 24348519
BMI; obesity; polymorphism; GWAS
21.  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
22.  Impact of Genetic Ancestry and Socio-Demographic Status on the Clinical Expression of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Amerindian-European Populations 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3687-3694.
Amerindian-Europeans, Asians and African-Americans have an excess morbidity from SLE and higher prevalence of lupus nephritis than Caucasians. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between genetic ancestry and socio-demographic characteristics and clinical features in a large cohort of Amerindian-European SLE patients.
A total of 2116 SLE patients of Amerindian-European origin and 4001 SLE patients of European descent with clinical data were used in the study. Genotyping of 253 continental ancestry informative markers was performed on the Illumina platform. The STRUCTURE and ADMIXTURE software were used to determine genetic ancestry of each individual. Correlation between ancestry and socio-demographic and clinical data were analyzed using logistic regression.
The average Amerindian genetic ancestry of 2116 SLE patients was 40.7%. There was an increased risk of having renal involvement (P<0.0001, OR= 3.50 95%CI 2.63-4.63) and an early age of onset with the presence of Amerindian genetic ancestry (P<0.0001). Amerindian ancestry protected against photosensitivity (P<0.0001, OR= 0.58 95%CI 0.44-0.76), oral ulcers (P<0.0001, OR= 0.55 95%CI 0.42-0.72), and serositis (P<0.0001, OR= 0.56 95%CI 0.41-0.75) after adjustment by age, gender and age of onset. However, gender and age of onset had stronger effects on malar rash, discoid rash, arthritis and neurological involvement than genetic ancestry.
In general, genetic Amerindian ancestry correlates with lower socio-demographic status and increases the risk for developing renal involvement and SLE at an earlier age of onset.
PMCID: PMC3485439  PMID: 22886787
23.  Comparison of autoantibody specificities between traditional and bead-based assays in a large, diverse collection of SLE patients and family members 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3677-3686.
The replacement of standard immunofluorescence anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) methods with bead-based assays is a new clinical option. A large, multi-racial cohort of SLE patients, blood relatives and unaffected control individuals was evaluated for familial aggregation and subset clustering of autoantibodies by high-throughput serum screening technology and traditional methods.
Serum samples (1,540 SLE patients, 1,127 unaffected relatives, and 906 healthy, population-based controls) were analyzed for SLE autoantibodies using a bead-based assay, immunofluorescence, and immunodiffusion. Autoantibody prevalence, disease sensitivity, clustering, and association with standard immunodiffusion results were evaluated.
ANA frequency in SLE patient sera were 89%, 73%, and 67% by BioPlex 2200 and 94%, 84%, and 86% by immunofluorescence in African-American, Hispanic, and European-American patients respectively. 60kD Ro, La, Sm, nRNP A, and ribosomal P prevalence were compared across assays, with sensitivities ranging from 0.92 to 0.83 and specificities ranging from 0.90 to 0.79. Cluster autoantibody analysis showed association of three subsets: 1) 60kD Ro, 52kD Ro and La, 2) spliceosomal proteins, and 3) dsDNA, chromatin, and ribosomal P. Familial aggregation of Sm/RNP, ribosomal P, and 60kD Ro in SLE patient sibling pairs was observed (p ≤ 0.004). Simplex pedigree patients had a greater prevalence for dsDNA (p=0.0003) and chromatin (p=0.005) autoantibodies than multiplex patients.
ANA frequencies detected by a bead-based assay are lower in European-American SLE patients compared to immunofluorescence. These assays have strong positive predictive values across racial groups, provide useful information for clinical care, and provide unique insights to familial aggregation and autoantibody clustering.
PMCID: PMC3490432  PMID: 23112091
systemic lupus erythematosus; autoantibodies; ancestry
24.  Genome-Wide Association Study of African and European Americans Implicates Multiple Shared and Ethnic Specific Loci in Sarcoidosis Susceptibility 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43907.
Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of granulomas in affected organs. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of this disease have been conducted only in European population. We present the first sarcoidosis GWAS in African Americans (AAs, 818 cases and 1,088 related controls) followed by replication in independent sets of AAs (455 cases and 557 controls) and European Americans (EAs, 442 cases and 2,284 controls). We evaluated >6 million SNPs either genotyped using the Illumina Omni1-Quad array or imputed from the 1000 Genomes Project data. We identified a novel sarcoidosis-associated locus, NOTCH4, that reached genome-wide significance in the combined AA samples (rs715299, PAA-meta = 6.51×10−10) and demonstrated the independence of this locus from others in the MHC region in the same sample. We replicated previous European GWAS associations within HLA-DRA, HLA-DRB5, HLA-DRB1, BTNL2, and ANXA11 in both our AA and EA datasets. We also confirmed significant associations to the previously reported HLA-C and HLA-B regions in the EA but not AA samples. We further identified suggestive associations with several other genes previously reported in lung or inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3428296  PMID: 22952805
25.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510

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