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1.  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
2.  Genome-wide association scan in women with systemic lupus erythematosus identifies susceptibility variants in ITGAM, PXK, KIAA1542 and other loci 
Nature genetics  2008;40(2):204-210.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a common systemic autoimmune disease with complex etiology but strong clustering in families (λS = ~30). We performed a genome-wide association scan using 317,501 SNPs in 720 women of European ancestry with SLE and in 2,337 controls, and we genotyped consistently associated SNPs in two additional independent sample sets totaling 1,846 affected women and 1,825 controls. Aside from the expected strong association between SLE and the HLA region on chromosome 6p21 and the previously confirmed non-HLA locus IRF5 on chromosome 7q32, we found evidence of association with replication (1.1 × 10−7 < Poverall < 1.6 × 10−23; odds ratio 0.82–1.62)in four regions: 16p11.2 (ITGAM), 11p15.5 (KIAA1542), 3p14.3 (PXK) and 1q25.1 (rs10798269). We also found evidence for association (P < 1 × 10−5) at FCGR2A, PTPN22 and STAT4, regions previously associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, as well as at ≥9 other loci (P < 2 × 10−7). Our results show that numerous genes, some with known immune-related functions, predispose to SLE.
PMCID: PMC3712260  PMID: 18204446
3.  Genetic Analyses of Interferon Pathway-Related Genes Reveals Multiple New Loci Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(7):2049-2057.
The overexpression of interferon (IFN)-inducible genes is a prominent feature of SLE, serves as a marker for active and more severe disease, and is also observed in other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. The genetic variations responsible for sustained activation of IFN responsive genes are unknown.
We systematically evaluated association of SLE with a total of 1,754 IFN-pathway related genes, including IFN-inducible genes known to be differentially expressed in SLE patients and their direct regulators. We performed a three-stage design where two cohorts (total n=939 SLE cases, 3,398 controls) were analyzed independently and jointly for association with SLE, and the results were adjusted for the number of comparisons.
A total of 16,137 SNPs passed all quality control filters of which 316 demonstrated replicated association with SLE in both cohorts. Nine variants were further genotyped for confirmation in an average of 1,316 independent SLE cases and 3,215 independent controls. Association with SLE was confirmed for several genes, including the transmembrane receptor CD44 (rs507230, P = 3.98×10−12), cytokine pleiotrophin (PTN) (rs919581, P = 5.38×10−04), the heat-shock DNAJA1 (rs10971259, P = 6.31×10−03), and the nuclear import protein karyopherin alpha 1 (KPNA1) (rs6810306, P = 4.91×10−02).
This study expands the number of candidate genes associated with SLE and highlights the potential of pathway-based approaches for gene discovery. Identification of the causal alleles will help elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for activation of the IFN system in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3128183  PMID: 21437871
4.  A Comprehensive Analysis of Shared Loci between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Sixteen Autoimmune Diseases Reveals Limited Genetic Overlap 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002406.
In spite of the well-known clustering of multiple autoimmune disorders in families, analyses of specific shared genes and polymorphisms between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) have been limited. Therefore, we comprehensively tested autoimmune variants for association with SLE, aiming to identify pleiotropic genetic associations between these diseases. We compiled a list of 446 non–Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of populations of European ancestry across 17 ADs. We then tested these variants in our combined Caucasian SLE cohorts of 1,500 cases and 5,706 controls. We tested a subset of these polymorphisms in an independent Caucasian replication cohort of 2,085 SLE cases and 2,854 controls, allowing the computation of a meta-analysis between all cohorts. We have uncovered novel shared SLE loci that passed multiple comparisons adjustment, including the VTCN1 (rs12046117, P = 2.02×10−06) region. We observed that the loci shared among the most ADs include IL23R, OLIG3/TNFAIP3, and IL2RA. Given the lack of a universal autoimmune risk locus outside of the MHC and variable specificities for different diseases, our data suggests partial pleiotropy among ADs. Hierarchical clustering of ADs suggested that the most genetically related ADs appear to be type 1 diabetes with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis. These findings support a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. For many of the shared GWAS autoimmune loci, we found no evidence for association with SLE, including IL23R. Also, several established SLE loci are apparently not associated with other ADs, including the ITGAM-ITGAX and TNFSF4 regions. This study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune loci to date, supports a relatively distinct non–MHC genetic susceptibility for SLE, provides further evidence for previously and newly identified shared genes in SLE, and highlights the value of studies of potentially pleiotropic genes in autoimmune diseases.
Author Summary
It is well known that multiple autoimmune disorders cluster in families. However, all of the genetic variants that explain this clustering have not been discovered, and the specific genetic variants shared between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) are not known. In order to better understand the genetic factors that explain this predisposition to autoimmunity, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune genetic variants. First we considered results from 17 ADs and compiled a list with 446 significant genetic variants from these studies. We identified some genetic variants extensively shared between ADs, as well as the ADs that share the most variants. The genetic overlap between SLE and other ADs was modest. Next we tested how important all the 446 genetic variants were in our collection with a minimum of 1,500 SLE patients. Among the most significant variants in SLE, the majority had already been identified in previous studies, but we also discovered variants in two important immune genes. In summary, our data identified diseases with common genetic risk factors and novel SLE effects, and this supports a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. This study helps delineate the genetic architecture of ADs.
PMCID: PMC3234215  PMID: 22174698
5.  High density genotyping of STAT4 gene reveals multiple haplotypic associations with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in different racial groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1085-1095.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2776081  PMID: 19333953
6.  Function2Gene: A gene selection tool to increase the power of genetic association studies by utilizing public databases and expert knowledge 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:311.
Many common disorders have multiple genetic components which convey increased susceptibility. SNPs have been used to identify genetic components which are associated with a disease. Unfortunately, many studies using these methods suffer from low reproducibility due to lack of power.
We present a set of programs which implement a novel method for searching for disease-associated genes using prior information to select and order genes from publicly available databases by their prior likelihood of association with the disease. These programs were used in a published study of childhood-onset SLE which yielded novel associations with modest sample size.
Using prior information to decrease the size of the problem space to an amount commensurate with available samples and resources while maintaining appropriate power enables researchers to increase their likelihood of discovering reproducible associations.
PMCID: PMC2500032  PMID: 18631403
7.  Use of cyclodextrins to manipulate plasma membrane cholesterol content: evidence, misconceptions and control strategies 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2007;1768(6):1311-1324.
The physiological importance of cholesterol in the cell plasma membrane has attracted increased attention in recent years. Consequently, the use of methods of controlled manipulation of membrane cholesterol content has also increased sharply, especially as a method of studying putative cholesterol-enriched cell membrane domains (rafts). The most common means of modifying the cholesterol content of cell membranes is the incubation of cells or model membranes with cyclodextrins, a family of compounds, which, due to the presence of relatively hydrophobic cavity, can be used to extract cholesterol from cell membranes. However, the mechanism of this activity of cyclodextrins is not completely established. Moreover, under conditions commonly used for cholesterol extraction, cyclodextrins may remove cholesterol from both raft and non-raft domains of the membrane as well as alter the distribution of cholesterol between plasma and intracellular membranes. In addition, other hydrophobic molecules such as phospholipids may also be extracted from the membranes by cyclodextrins. We review the evidence for the specific and non-specific effects of cyclodextrins and what is known about the mechanisms for cyclodextrin-induced cholesterol and phospholipid extraction. Finally, we discuss useful control strategies that may help to verify that the observed effects are due specifically to cyclodextrin-induced changes in cellular cholesterol.
PMCID: PMC1948080  PMID: 17493580
Membrane cholesterol; membrane rafts; cyclodextrin

Results 1-7 (7)