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1.  Hematopoietic Defects and iPSC Disease Modeling: Lessons Learned 
Immunology letters  2013;155(0):10.1016/j.imlet.2013.09.018.
Summary
Hematopoiesis is a paradigm for stem cell biology in that it centers on differentiation of a self-renewing pluripotent precursor into multiple committed cell types with specific functions. The use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as a disease modeling tool has revealed numerous insights into the underlying pathophysiology of hematological diseases – those disorders arising from defective hematopoiesis. Likewise, studying hematopoiesis and the defects that can arise offer clues to understanding general stem cell survival and differentiation.
doi:10.1016/j.imlet.2013.09.018
PMCID: PMC3888024  PMID: 24076116
2.  Pluripotent stem cell models of Shwachman-Diamond syndrome reveal a common mechanism for pancreatic and hematopoietic dysfunction 
Cell stem cell  2013;12(6):727-736.
Summary
Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS), a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and hematopoietic dysfunction, is caused by mutations in the Shwachman-Bodian-Diamond syndrome (SBDS) gene. We created human pluripotent stem cell models of SDS by knock-down of SBDS in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and generation of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from two SDS patients. SBDS-deficient hESCs and iPSCs manifest deficits in exocrine pancreatic and hematopoietic differentiation in vitro, enhanced apoptosis and elevated protease levels in culture supernatants, which could be reversed by restoring SBDS protein expression through transgene rescue or by supplementing culture media with protease inhibitors. Protease-mediated auto-digestion provides a mechanistic link between the pancreatic and hematopoietic phenotypes in SDS, highlighting the utility of hESCs and iPSCs in obtaining novel insights into human disease.
doi:10.1016/j.stem.2013.04.002
PMCID: PMC3755012  PMID: 23602541
3.  Proteolytic autodigestion 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(22):3457-3458.
doi:10.4161/cc.26698
PMCID: PMC3906327  PMID: 24107623
induced pluripotent stem cells; reprogramming; bone marrow failure; Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome
5.  The HLA–DRB1 Shared Epitope Is Associated With Susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans Through European Genetic Admixture 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):349-358.
Objective
To determine whether shared epitope (SE)–containing HLA–DRB1 alleles are associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in African Americans and whether their presence is associated with higher degrees of global (genome-wide) genetic admixture from the European population.
Methods
In this multicenter cohort study, African Americans with early RA and matched control subjects were analyzed. In addition to measurement of serum anti–cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies and HLA–DRB1 genotyping, a panel of >1,200 ancestry-informative markers was analyzed in patients with RA and control subjects, to estimate the proportion of European ancestry.
Results
The frequency of SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles was 25.2% in African American patients with RA versus 13.6% in control subjects (P = 0.00005). Of 321 patients with RA, 42.1% had at least 1 SE-containing allele, compared with 25.3% of 166 control subjects (P = 0.0004). The mean estimated percent European ancestry was associated with SE-containing HLA–DRB1 alleles in African Americans, regardless of disease status (RA or control). As reported in RA patients of European ancestry, there was a significant association of the SE with the presence of the anti-CCP antibody: 86 (48.9%) of 176 patients with anti-CCP antibody–positive RA had at least 1 SE allele, compared with 36 (32.7%) of 110 patients with anti-CCP antibody–negative RA (P = 0.01, by chi-square test).
Conclusion
HLA–DRB1 alleles containing the SE are strongly associated with susceptibility to RA in African Americans. The absolute contribution is less than that reported in RA among populations of European ancestry, in which ~50–70% of patients have at least 1 SE allele. As in Europeans with RA, the SE association was strongest in the subset of African American patients with anti-CCP antibodies. The finding of a higher degree of European ancestry among African Americans with SE alleles suggests that a genetic risk factor for RA was introduced into the African American population through admixture, thus making these individuals more susceptible to subsequent environmental or unknown factors that trigger the disease.
doi:10.1002/art.23166
PMCID: PMC3726059  PMID: 18240241
6.  Most Common SNPs Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis in Subjects of European Ancestry Confer Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis in African-Americans 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2010;62(12):3547-3553.
Objective
Large-scale genetic association studies have identified over 20 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk alleles among individuals of European ancestry. The influence of these risk alleles has not been comprehensively studied in African-Americans. We therefore sought to examine whether these validated RA risk alleles are associated with RA in an African-American population.
Methods
27 candidate SNPs were genotyped in 556 autoantibody-positive African-Americans with RA and 791 healthy African-American controls. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for each SNP were compared to previously published ORs of RA patients of European ancestry. We then calculated a composite Genetic Risk Score (GRS) for each individual based on the sum of all risk alleles.
Results
There was overlap in the OR and 95% CI between the European and African-American populations in 24 of the 27 candidate SNPs. Conversely, 3 of the 27 SNPs (CCR6 rs3093023, TAGAP rs394581, TNFAIP3 rs6920220) demonstrated an OR in the opposite direction from those reported in RA patients of European ancestry. The GRS analysis indicated a small but highly significant probability that African-American cases were enriched for the European RA risk alleles relative to controls (p=0.00005).
Conclusion
The majority of RA risk alleles previously validated among European ancestry RA patients showed similar ORs in our population of African-Americans with RA. Furthermore, the aggregate GRS supports the hypothesis that these SNPs are risk alleles for RA in the African-American population. Future large-scale genetic studies are needed to validate these risk alleles and identify novel risk alleles for RA in African-Americans.
doi:10.1002/art.27732
PMCID: PMC3030622  PMID: 21120996
8.  Pathways: Strategies for Susceptibility Genes in SLE 
Autoimmunity reviews  2010;9(7):473-476.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disorder marked by an inappropriate immune response to nuclear antigens. Recent whole genome association and more focused studies have revealed numerous genes implicated in this disease process, including ITGAM, Fc gamma receptors, complement components, C-reactive protein, and others. One common feature of these molecules is their involvement in the immune opsonins pathway and phagocytic clearing of nuclear antigens and apoptotic debris which provide excessive exposure of lupus-related antigens to immune cells. Analysis of gene-gene interactions in the opsonin pathway and its relationship to SLE may provide a systems-based approach to identify additional candidate genes associated with disease able to account for a larger part of lupus susceptibility.
doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2010.02.003
PMCID: PMC2868085  PMID: 20144911
SLE; opsonin; pathway; genetic association
9.  Wegener's Granulomatosis: A Model of Auto-antibodies in Mucosal Autoimmunity 
Wegener's granulomatosis (WG) is an autoimmune condition marked by vasculitis of small and medium sized vessels particularly affecting the upper respiratory tract and kidneys. There is a strong mucosal component similar to other autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behçet's disease. While the pathogenesis of WG is not completely known, auto-antibodies such as IgG ANCAs have been implicated in endovascular damage and modulation of neutrophil / monocyte responses by Fc receptor (FcR) signaling. Due to the substantial mucosal involvement in WG (oral, nasal, and upper respiratory tract involvement), it is probable that IgA antibodies (perhaps IgA ANCAs) play a role in disease. Given discrepancies in associating ANCA levels with disease activity, future work should determine if IgA ANCAs are present in WG patients and examine the biology underlying the ANCAs' signaling partners - the FcRs.
doi:10.1016/j.clim.2009.04.014
PMCID: PMC2817984  PMID: 19482554
10.  Genetic association of htSNPs across the major histocompatibility complex with rheumatoid arthritis in an African American population 
Genes and immunity  2009;11(1):94-97.
Notwithstanding the well established association of HLA-DRB1 shared epitope alleles, interest remains in identifying additional Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) region variants associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We used a panel of 1,201 haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) designed for African Americans to find genetic variants associated with RA in a 3.8 Mb region encompassing the MHC. Conditioning on seven covariates including HLA-DRB1 risk alleles and population structure, we identified a SNP in HLA-DOA (rs9276977) significantly associated with RA; minor allele frequency (MAF) 0.27 in cases versus 0.21 in controls: OR(±95% CI) = 2.86 (1.61, 5.31). Genotyping of rs9276977 in an independent sample of African-American RA patients and controls did not replicate the association (MAF 0.28 in cases versus 0.27 in controls). This study points to the potential association of a SNP in the HLA-DOA gene with RA in African-Americans, but also underscores the importance of replication of findings in larger patient cohorts.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.69
PMCID: PMC2809137  PMID: 19741715
genetic association; MHC; HLA-DOA; African American; HLA-DRB1
11.  Association of IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms with rheumatoid nodules in African Americans with rheumatoid arthritis 
Introduction
To determine whether IL4R single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs1805010 (I50V) and rs1801275 (Q551R), which have been associated with disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients of European ancestry, relate to the presence of rheumatoid nodules and radiographic erosions in African Americans.
Methods
Two IL4R SNPs, rs1805010 and rs1801275, were genotyped in 749 patients from the Consortium for Longitudinal Evaluation of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) registries. End points were rheumatoid nodules defined as present either by physical examination or by chest radiography and radiographic erosions (radiographs of hands/wrists and feet were scored using the modified Sharp/van der Heijde system). Statistical analyses were performed by using logistic regression modeling adjusted for confounding factors.
Results
Of the 749 patients with RA, 156 (20.8%) had rheumatoid nodules, with a mean age of 47.0 years, 84.6% female gender, and median disease duration of 1.9 years. Of the 461 patients with available radiographic data, 185 (40.1%) had erosions (score >0); their mean age was 46.7 years; 83.3% were women; and median disease duration was 1.5 years. Patients positive for HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) and autoantibodies (rheumatoid factor (RF) or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP)) had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in the presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (odds ratio (OR)adj = 8.08 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.60-40.89), P = 0.01 and ORadj = 2.97 (95% CI, 1.08 to 8.17), P = 0.04, respectively). Likewise, patients positive for the HLA-DRB1 SE and RF alone had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid nodules in presence of the AA and AG alleles of rs1801275 (ORadj = 8.45 (95% CI, 1.57 to 45.44), P = 0.01, and ORadj = 3.57 (95% CI, 1.18 to 10.76), P = 0.02, respectively) and in the presence of AA allele of rs1805010 (ORadj = 4.52 (95% CI, 1.20 to 17.03), P = 0.03). No significant association was found between IL4R and radiographic erosions or disease susceptibility, although our statistical power was limited by relatively small numbers of cases and controls.
Conclusions
We found that IL4R SNPs, rs1801275 and rs1805010, are associated with rheumatoid nodules in autoantibody-positive African-American RA patients with at least one HLA-DRB1 allele encoding the SE. These findings highlight the need for analysis of genetic factors associated with clinical RA phenotypes in different racial/ethnic populations.
doi:10.1186/ar2994
PMCID: PMC2911851  PMID: 20444266
13.  Understanding Personalized Medicine in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Clinician's Guide to the Future 
Personalized medicine refers to the utilization of technologies at the molecular level to understand disease processes and improve health outcomes. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA) some factors associated with disease outcome have been identified. These factors have not yet been integrated into a clinically useful tool to predict disease outcome in individual patients. Developments in pharmacogenomics are moving the field forward quite rapidly. Genetic variants, which may have a role in drug metabolism mediating either drug response or toxicity, have been identified for both traditional disease modifying antirheumatic drugs and biologic agents. Choosing a medication based on a patient's characteristics (sociodemographic, clinical, genetic) will result in better utilization of resources and better clinical outcomes. The ethical, political, and legal implications of personalized medicine need to be considered as well.
doi:10.1177/1759720X09351778
PMCID: PMC3383485  PMID: 22870431
biomarkers; disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs); personalized medicine; pharmacogenetics; pharmacogenomics
14.  An African Ancestry-Specific Allele of CTLA4 Confers Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000424.
Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA4) is a negative regulator of T-cell proliferation. Polymorphisms in CTLA4 have been inconsistently associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in populations of European ancestry but have not been examined in African Americans. The prevalence of RA in most populations of European and Asian ancestry is ∼1.0%; RA is purportedly less common in black Africans, with little known about its prevalence in African Americans. We sought to determine if CTLA4 polymorphisms are associated with RA in African Americans. We performed a 2-stage analysis of 12 haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across CTLA4 in a total of 505 African American RA patients and 712 African American controls using Illumina and TaqMan platforms. The minor allele (G) of the rs231778 SNP was 0.054 in RA patients, compared to 0.209 in controls (4.462×10−26, Fisher's exact). The presence of the G allele was associated with a substantially reduced odds ratio (OR) of having RA (AG+GG genotypes vs. AA genotype, OR 0.19, 95% CI: 0.13–0.26, p = 2.4×10−28, Fisher's exact), suggesting a protective effect. This SNP is polymorphic in the African population (minor allele frequency [MAF] 0.09 in the Yoruba population), but is very rare in other groups (MAF = 0.002 in 530 Caucasians genotyped for this study). Markers associated with RA in populations of European ancestry (rs3087243 [+60C/T] and rs231775 [+49A/G]) were not replicated in African Americans. We found no confounding of association for rs231778 after stratifying for the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope, presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody, or degree of admixture from the European population. An African ancestry-specific genetic variant of CTLA4 appears to be associated with protection from RA in African Americans. This finding may explain, in part, the relatively low prevalence of RA in black African populations.
Author Summary
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune condition affecting the synovial membranes of diarthrodial joints. The etiology of RA is unclear but is thought to result from an environmental trigger in the context of genetic predisposition. We report that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs231778) in CTLA4, which encodes a negative regulator of T cell activation, is associated (p = 2.4×10−28) with protection from developing RA among African Americans. rs231778 is only polymorphic in populations of African ancestry. Protective alleles such as this one may contribute to the purported lower prevalence of RA in African Americans. Our finding appears to be independent from confounding by linkage with the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope or by genetic admixture. Furthermore, we did not replicate associations of CTLA4 SNPs with RA or other autoimmune diseases previously reported in Asians and Caucasians, such as rs3087243 (+60C/T) and rs231775 (+49A/G). The associations of different SNPs with RA susceptibility specific to different populations highlight the importance of CTLA4 in the pathogenesis of RA and demonstrate the ethnic-specific genetic background that contributes to its susceptibility.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000424
PMCID: PMC2652071  PMID: 19300490
15.  Does gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) influence the development of chronic inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis? 
Background
Recent studies have demonstrated a role for spinal p38 MAP kinase (MAPK) in the development of chronic inflammation and peripheral arthritis and a role for GABA in the inhibition of p38 MAPK mediated effects. Integrating these data suggests that GABA may play a role in downregulating mechanisms that lead to the production of proinflammatory agents such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and matrix metalloproteinase 3 – agents implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Genetic studies have also associated RA with members of the p38 MAPK pathway.
Hypothesis
We propose a hypothesis for an inefficient GABA signaling system that results in unchecked proinflammatory cytokine production via the p38 MAPK pathway. This model also supports the need for increasing research in the integration of immunology and neuroscience.
doi:10.1186/1742-2094-5-1
PMCID: PMC2235846  PMID: 18171484

Results 1-15 (15)