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1.  The Role of Genetic Variation Near Interferon-Kappa in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by increased type I interferons (IFNs) and multiorgan inflammation frequently targeting the skin. IFN-kappa is a type I IFN expressed in skin. A pooled genome-wide scan implicated the IFNK locus in SLE susceptibility. We studied IFNK single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 3982 SLE cases and 4275 controls, composed of European (EA), African-American (AA), and Asian ancestry. rs12553951C was associated with SLE in EA males (odds ratio = 1.93, P = 2.5 × 10−4), but not females. Suggestive associations with skin phenotypes in EA and AA females were found, and these were also sex-specific. IFNK SNPs were associated with increased serum type I IFN in EA and AA SLE patients. Our data suggest a sex-dependent association between IFNK SNPs and SLE and skin phenotypes. The serum IFN association suggests that IFNK variants could influence type I IFN producing plasmacytoid dendritic cells in affected skin.
PMCID: PMC2914299  PMID: 20706608
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Distinct Tlr4-expressing cell compartments control neutrophilic and eosinophilic airway inflammation 
Mucosal immunology  2014;8(4):863-873.
Allergic asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease. Some forms of allergic asthma are characterized by Th2-driven eosinophilia while others are distinguished by Th17-driven neutrophilia. Stimulation of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) on hematopoietic and airway epithelial cells (AECs) contributes to the inflammatory response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and allergens, but the specific contribution of TLR4 in these cell compartments to airway inflammatory responses remains poorly understood. We used novel, conditionally mutant Tlr4fl/fl mice to define the relative contributions of AEC and hematopoietic cell Tlr4 expression to LPS- and allergen-induced airway inflammation. We found that Tlr4 expression by hematopoietic cells is critical for neutrophilic airway inflammation following LPS exposure and for Th17-driven neutrophilic responses to the house dust mite (HDM) lysates and ovalbumin (OVA). Conversely, Tlr4 expression by AECs was found to be important for robust eosinophilic airway inflammation following sensitization and challenge with these same allergens. Thus, Tlr4 expression by hematopoietic and airway epithelial cells controls distinct arms of the immune response to inhaled allergens.
PMCID: PMC4454628  PMID: 25465099
5.  Evaluation of TRAF6 in a Large Multi-Ancestral Lupus Cohort 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1960-1969.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease with significant immune system aberrations resulting from complex heritable genetics as well as environmental factors. TRAF6 is a candidate gene for SLE, which has a major role in several signaling pathways that are important for immunity and organ development.
Fifteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), across TRAF6 were evaluated in 7,490 SLE and 6,780 control subjects from different ancestries. Population-based case-control association analyses and meta-analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Evidence of associations in multiple SNPs was detected. The best overall p values were obtained for SNPs rs5030437 and rs4755453 (p=7.85×10−5 and p=4.73×10−5, respectively) without significant heterogeneity among populations (p=0.67 and p=0.50 in Q-statistic). In addition, rs540386 previously reported to be associated with RA was found to be in LD with these two SNPs (r2= 0.95) and demonstrated evidence of association with SLE in the same direction (meta-analysis p=9.15×10−4, OR=0.89, 95%CI=0.83–0.95). Thrombocytopenia improved the overall results in different populations (meta-analysis p=1.99×10−6, OR=0.57, 95%CI=0.45–0.72, for rs5030470). Finally evidence of family based association in 34 African-American pedigrees with the presence of thrombocytopenia were detected in one available SNP rs5030437 with Z score magnitude of 2.28 (p=0.02) under a dominant model.
Our data indicate the presence of association of TRAF6 with SLE in agreement with the previous report of association with RA. These data provide further support for the involvement of TRAF6 in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3380425  PMID: 22231568
TRAF6; polymorphism; systemic lupus erythematosus
6.  Identification of ATPAF1 as a novel candidate gene for asthma in children 
Asthma is a common disease of children with a complex genetic origin. Understanding the genetic basis of asthma susceptibility will allow disease prediction and risk stratification.
We sought to identify asthma susceptibility genes in children.
A nested case-control genetic association study of children of Caucasian European ancestry from a birth cohort was conducted. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, n=116,024) were genotyped in pools of DNA samples from cohort children with physician-diagnosed asthma (n=112) and normal controls (n=165). A genomic region containing the ATPAF1 gene was significantly associated with asthma. Additional SNPs within this region were genotyped in individual samples from the same children and in eight independent study populations consisting of Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, or other ancestries. SNPs were also genotyped or imputed in two consortia control populations. ATPAF1 expression was measured in bronchial biopsies from asthmatics and controls.
Asthma was associated with a cluster of SNPs and SNP haplotypes containing the ATPAF1 gene with two SNPs achieving significance at a genome-wide level (p=2.26×10−5 to 2.2×10−8). Asthma severity was also associated with SNPs and haplotypes in the primary population. SNP and/or gene-level associations were confirmed in the four non-Hispanic populations. Haplotype associations were confirmed in the non-Hispanic populations (p=0.045 to 0.0009). ATPAF1 total RNA expression was significantly (p<0.01) higher in bronchial biopsies from asthmatics than controls.
Genetic variation in the ATPAF1 gene predisposes children of different ancestry to asthma.
PMCID: PMC3185108  PMID: 21696813
asthma; ATPAF1; children; gene; genetic; genome-wide association; purinergic; respiratory; single nucleotide polymorphism; SNP
7.  IFRD1 polymorphisms in cystic fibrosis with potential link to altered neutrophil function 
Nature  2009;458(7241):1039-1042.
Lung disease is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF), an autosomal recessive disease caused by mutations in CFTR. In CF, chronic infection and dysregulated neutrophilic inflammation lead to progressive airway destruction. The severity of CF lung disease has significant heritability, independent of CFTR genotype1. To identify genetic modifiers, we performed a genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) scan in one cohort of CF patients, replicating top candidates in an independent cohort. This approach identified IFRD1 as a modifier of CF lung disease severity. IFRD1 is a histone deacetylase (HDAC)-dependent transcriptional co-regulator expressed during terminal neutrophil differentiation. Neutrophils, but not macrophages, from Ifrd1-deficient mice exhibited blunted effector function, associated with decreased NF-κB p65 transactivation. In vivo, IFRD1 deficiency caused delayed bacterial clearance from the airway, but also less inflammation and disease—a phenotype primarily dependent on hematopoietic cell expression, or lack of expression, of IFRD1. In humans, IFRD1 polymorphisms were significantly associated with variation in neutrophil effector function. These data suggest that IFRD1 modulates the pathogenesis of CF lung disease through regulation of neutrophil effector function.
PMCID: PMC2841516  PMID: 19242412
8.  IL-17 Signaling Accelerates the Progression of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2014;59(5):1830-1839.
Inflammation plays a central pathogenic role in the pernicious metabolic and end organ sequelae of obesity. Among these sequelae, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most common chronic liver disease in the developed world. The twinned observations that obesity is associated with increased activation of the IL-17 axis and that this axis can regulate liver damage in diverse contexts prompted us to address the role of IL-17RA signaling in the progression of NAFLD. We further examined whether microbe-driven IL-17A regulated NAFLD development and progression. We show here that IL-17RA−/− mice respond to high fat diet stress with significantly greater weight gain, visceral adiposity and hepatic steatosis than wild type controls. However, obesity-driven lipid accumulation was uncoupled from its end organ consequences in IL-17RA−/− mice, which exhibited decreased steatohepatitis, NADPH-oxidase enzyme expression and hepatocellular damage. Neutralization of IL-17A significantly reduced obesity-driven hepatocellular damage in wild type mice. Further, colonization of mice with segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB), a commensal that induces IL-17A production, exacerbated obesity-induced hepatocellular damage. In contrast, SFB depletion protected from obesity-induced hepatocellular damage.
These data indicate that obesity-driven activation of the IL-17 axis is central to the development and progression of NAFLD to steatohepatitis and identify the IL-17 pathway as a novel therapeutic target in this condition.
PMCID: PMC3975735  PMID: 24115079
Inflammation; Segmented filamentous bacteria; Microbiome
9.  Osteopontin and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Association: A Probable Gene-Gender Interaction 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1757.
Osteopontin (SPP1) is an important bone matrix mediator found to have key roles in inflammation and immunity. SPP1 genetic polymorphisms and increased osteopontin protein levels have been reported to be associated with SLE in small patient collections. The present study evaluates association between SPP1 polymorphisms and SLE in a large cohort of 1141 unrelated SLE patients [707 European-American (EA) and 434 African-American (AA)], and 2009 unrelated controls (1309 EA and 700 AA). Population-based case-control association analyses were performed. To control for potential population stratification, admixture adjusted logistic regression, genomic control (GC), structured association (STRAT), and principal components analysis (PCA) were applied. Combined analysis of 2 ethnic groups, showed the minor allele of 2 SNPs (rs1126616T and rs9138C) significantly associated with higher risk of SLE in males (P = 0.0005, OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.28–2.33), but not in females. Indeed, significant gene-gender interactions in the 2 SNPs, rs1126772 and rs9138, were detected (P = 0.001 and P = 0.0006, respectively). Further, haplotype analysis identified rs1126616T-rs1126772A-rs9138C which demonstrated significant association with SLE in general (P = 0.02, OR = 1.30, 95%CI 1.08–1.57), especially in males (P = 0.0003, OR = 2.42, 95%CI 1.51–3.89). Subgroup analysis with single SNPs and haplotypes also identified a similar pattern of gender-specific association in AA and EA. GC, STRAT, and PCA results within each group showed consistent associations. Our data suggest SPP1 is associated with SLE, and this association is especially stronger in males. To our knowledge, this report serves as the first association of a specific autosomal gene with human male lupus.
PMCID: PMC2258418  PMID: 18335026
10.  Prolidase deficiency breaks tolerance to lupus-associated antigens 
Prolidase deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disease in which one of the last steps of collagen metabolism, cleavage of proline-containing dipeptides, is impaired. Only about 93 patients have been reported with about 10% also having systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We studied a large extended Amish pedigree with four prolidase deficiency patients and three heterozygous individuals for lupus-associated autoimmunity. Eight unaffected Amish children served as normal controls. Prolidase genetics and enzyme activity were confirmed. Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) were determined using indirect immunofluorescence and antibodies against extractable nuclear antigens were determined by various methods, including double immunodiffusion, immunoprecipitation and multiplex bead assay. Serum C1q levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Two of the four homozygous prolidase deficiency subjects had a positive ANA. One had anti-double-stranded DNA, while another had precipitating anti-Ro. By the simultaneous microbead assay, three of the four had anti-Sm and anti-chromatin. One of the three heterozygous subjects had a positive ANA and immunoprecipitation of a 75 000 molecular weight protein. The unaffected controls had normal prolidase activity and were negative for autoantibodies.
Prolidase deficiency may be associated with the loss of immune tolerance to lupus-associated autoantigens even without clinical SLE.
PMCID: PMC4030668  PMID: 24330273
prolidase deficiency; systemic lupus erythematosus; autoantibodies
11.  Differential colonization with segmented filamentous bacteria and Lactobacillus murinus do not drive divergent development of diet-induced obesity in C57BL/6 mice 
Molecular Metabolism  2013;2(3):171-183.
Alterations in the gut microbiota have been proposed to modify the development and maintenance of obesity and its sequelae. Definition of underlying mechanisms has lagged, although the ability of commensal gut microbes to drive pathways involved in inflammation and metabolism has generated compelling, testable hypotheses. We studied C57BL/6 mice from two vendors that differ in their obesogenic response and in their colonization by specific members of the gut microbiota having well-described roles in regulating gut immune responses. We confirmed the presence of robust differences in weight gain in mice from these different vendors during high fat diet stress. However, neither specific, highly divergent members of the gut microbiota (Lactobacillus murinus, segmented filamentous bacteria) nor the horizontally transmissible gut microbiota were found to be responsible. Constitutive differences in locomotor activity were observed, however. These data underscore the importance of selecting appropriate controls in this widely used model of human obesity.
PMCID: PMC3773832  PMID: 24049732
Microbiome; Obesity; Inflammation; Metabolism; Nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase
12.  Obesity and the gut microbiome: Striving for causality 
Molecular Metabolism  2012;1(1-2):21-31.
The gut microbiome has been proposed to play a causal role in obesity. Here, we review the historical context for this hypothesis, highlight recent key findings, and critically discuss issues central to further progress in the field, including the central epistemological problem for the field: how to define causality in the relationship between microbiota and obesity phenotypes. Definition of such will be critical for the field to move forward.
PMCID: PMC3757651  PMID: 24024115
Microbiome; Microbiota; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Innate immunity; Segmented filamentous bacteria
13.  Genetic Susceptibility to Lupus: New Insights from fine mapping and genome-wide association studies 
Nature reviews. Genetics  2009;10(5):285-290.
Genome-wide association studies and fine mapping of candidate regions have rapidly advanced our understanding of the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). More than 20 robust associations have now been identified and confirmed, and have provided insights at the molecular level that refine our understanding of the involvement of processes involved in the host immune response. In addition, genes with as yet unknown roles in SLE pathophysiology have been identified. These findings provide new routes toward improved clinical management of this complex disease.
PMCID: PMC2737697  PMID: 19337289

Results 1-13 (13)