Recent advances in the field of genetics have dramatically changed our understanding of autoimmune disease. Candidate gene and, more recently, genome-wide association (GWA) studies have led to an explosion in the number of loci and pathways known to contribute to autoimmune phenotypes. Since the 1970s, researchers have known that several alleles in the MHC region play a role in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. More recent work has identified numerous risk loci involving both the innate and adaptive immune responses. However, much remains to be learned about the heritability of autoimmune conditions. Most regions found through GWA scans have yet to isolate the association to the causal allele(s) responsible for conferring disease risk. A role for rare variants (allele frequencies of <1%) has begun to emerge. Future research will use next generation sequencing (NGS) technology to comprehensively evaluate the human genome for risk variants. Whole transcriptome sequencing is now possible, which will provide much more detailed gene expression data. The dramatic drop in the cost and time required to sequence the entire human genome will ultimately make it possible for this technology to be used as a clinical diagnostic tool.
Genetics; Genomics; Genome-wide association study; Autoimmune disease
Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by a lymphocytic exocrinopathy. However, patients often have evidence of systemic autoimmunity and they are at markedly increased risk for the development of non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Similar to other autoimmune disorders, a strong interferon (IFN) signature is present among subsets of pSS patients, though the precise etiology remains uncertain. NCR3/NKp30 is a NK-specific activating receptor regulating the cross-talk between NK and dendritic cells and type II IFN secretion. We performed a case-control study of genetic polymorphisms of the NCR3/NKp30 gene and found that rs11575837 (G>A) residing in the promoter was associated with reduced gene transcription and function as well as protection to pSS. We also demonstrated that circulating levels of NCR3/NKp30 were markedly increased among pSS patients compared with controls and correlated with higher NCR3/NKp30 but not CD16-dependent IFN-γ secretion by NK cells. Excess accumulation of NK cells in minor salivary glands correlated with the severity of the exocrinopathy. B7H6, the ligand of NKp30, was expressed by salivary epithelial cells. These findings suggest that NK cells may promote an NKp30-dependent inflammatory state in salivary glands, and that blockade of the B7H6/NKp30 axis could be clinically relevant in pSS.
Sjögren’s syndrome; autoimmunity; NK cells; innate immunity; NKp30/NCR3
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.
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.
Sjögren's syndrome; Classification; Diagnosis
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.
Sjögren syndrome is a common, chronic autoimmune disease that typically produces inflammation and poor function of the salivary and lacrimal glands. Other organs can be affected, including the nervous system. Sensory peripheral neuropathy is a common manifestation of the disease.
Eight-eight patients attending a dry eyes-dry mouth clinic were classified as primary Sjögren syndrome and underwent a neurological examination. Anti-Ro (or SSA) and anti-La (or SSB) were determined using immunodiffusion as well as Inno-Lia and BioPlex ANA screen. Serum vitamin B12 levels were determined using an enzyme-linked microtiter plate assay.
Twenty-seven (31%) of the 88 patients had peripheral neuropathy as defined by loss of light touch, proprioception or vibratory sensation. Anti-Ro and anti-La were found by immunodiffusion in 12 patients, and 8 of these 12 had neuropathy (χ2=8.46, p=0.0036, odds ratio = 6.0 compared to those without precipitating anti-Ro and anti-La). Of the 27 patients with only anti-Ro by immunodiffusion, 13 (48.1%) of these had neuropathy (χ2 =5.587, p=0.018 compared to those without anti-Ro). There was no relationship of the other, more sensitive measures of anti-Ro and anti-La to neuropathy. In addition, we found no association of serum vitamin B12 levels to neuropathy among these patients with Sjögren syndrome.
Sensory peripheral neuropathy is common among patients with Sjögren syndrome, and is associated with the presence of anti-Ro and anti-La when determined by immunodiffusion.
Sjögren syndrome; autoantibodies; peripheral neuropathy; vitamin B12
While Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is more common than related autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scientific and medical research in SS has lagged behind significantly. This is especially true in the field of SS genetics, where efforts to date have relied heavily on candidate gene approaches. Within the last decade, the advent of the genome-wide association (GWA) scan has altered our understanding of disease pathogenesis in hundreds of disorders through the successful identification of novel risk loci. With strong evidence for a genetic component in SS as evidenced by familial aggregation of SS as well as similarities between SS and SLE and RA, the application of GWA approaches would likely yield numerous novel risk loci in SS. Here we review the fundamental scientific principles employed in GWA scans as well as the limitations of this tool, and we discuss the application of GWA scans in determining genetic variants at play in complex disease. We also examine the successful application of GWA scans in SLE, which now has more than 40 confirmed risk loci, and consider the possibility for a similar trajectory of SS genetic discovery in the era of GWA scans. Ultimately, the GWA studies that will be performed in SS have the potential to identify a myriad of novel genetic loci that will allow scientists to begin filling in the gaps in our understanding of the SS pathogenesis.
genetics; Sjögren’s syndrome; genome-wide association
The aim of this study was to examine the association between functional polymorphisms in the pro-inflammatory P2X7 receptor and the Ro/La autoantibody response in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS).
Twelve functional P2RX7 polymorphisms were genotyped in 114 pSS patients fulfilling the Revised American-European Consensus Criteria for pSS, and 136 controls. Genotyping of the A1405G (rs2230912) polymorphism was performed on a replication cohort consisting of 281 pSS patients and 534 controls. P2X7 receptor function in lymphocytes and monocytes was assessed by measurement of ATP-induced ethidium+ uptake. Serum IL-18 levels were determined by ELISA.
The minor allele of P2RX7 A1405G is a tag for a common haplotype associated with gain in receptor function, as assessed by ATP-induced ethidium+ uptake. A positive association between 1405G and anti-Ro±La seropositive pSS patients was observed in Cohort 1. Although not replicated in Cohort 2, there was a consistent, significant, negative epistatic interaction effect with HLA-DR3 in seropositive pSS patients from both cohorts, thereby implicating this gain of function variant in the pathogenesis of pSS. Serum IL-18 was elevated in seropositive pSS patients, but was not influenced by P2RX7 A1405G.
The P2RX7 1405G gain-of-function haplotype may be a risk factor for seropositive pSS in a subset of subjects who do not carry HLA risk alleles, but has no effect in subjects who do (epistasis). Potential mechanisms relate to autoantigen exposure and inflammatory cytokine expression. The observed elevation of IL-18 levels is consistent with P2X7 receptor activation in seropositive pSS patients. Collectively these findings implicate P2X7 receptor function in the pathogenesis of pSS.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with diverse clinical manifestations characterized by the development of pathogenic autoantibodies manifesting in inflammation of target organs such as the kidneys, skin and joints. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants in the UBE2L3 region that are associated with SLE in subjects of European and Asian ancestry. UBE2L3 encodes an ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UBCH7, involved in cell proliferation and immune function. In this study, we sought to further characterize the genetic association in the region of UBE2L3 and use molecular methods to determine the functional effect of the risk haplotype. We identified significant associations between variants in the region of UBE2L3 and SLE in individuals of European and Asian ancestry that exceeded a Bonferroni corrected threshold (P < 1 × 10−4). A single risk haplotype was observed in all associated populations. Individuals harboring the risk haplotype display a significant increase in both UBE2L3 mRNA expression (P = 0.0004) and UBCH7 protein expression (P = 0.0068). The results suggest that variants carried on the SLE associated UBE2L3 risk haplotype influence autoimmunity by modulating UBCH7 expression.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; UBE2L3; Multi Ethnic Association Study; UBCH7 Expression
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a common, progressive autoimmune exocrinopathy distinguished by dry eyes and mouth and affects ∼0.7% of the European population. Overexpression of transcripts induced by interferons (IFN), termed as an “IFN signature,” has been found in SS patients. Four microarray studies have been published in SS that identified dysregulated genes within type I IFN signaling in either salivary glands or peripheral blood of SS patients. The mechanism of this type I IFN activation is still obscure, but several possible explanations have been proposed, including virus infection-initiated and immune complex-initiated type I IFN production by plasmacytoid dendritic cells. Genetic predisposition to increased type I IFN signaling is supported by candidate gene studies showing evidence for association of variants within IFN-related genes. Once activated, IFN signaling may contribute to numerous aspects of SS pathophysiology, including lymphocyte infiltration into exocrine glands, autoantibody production, and glandular cell apoptosis. Thus, dysregulation of IFN pathways is an important feature that can be potentially used as a serum biomarker for diagnosis and targeting of new treatments in this complex autoimmune disease.
interferon signature; Sjögren’s syndrome; gene expression profiling; microarrays; type I interferon; genetic association; mechanisms; biomarker
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.
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.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and organ damage. Lupus nephritis (LN) is one of the most severe manifestations of SLE. Multiple studies reported associations between renal diseases and variants in the non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9 (MYH9) and the neighboring apolipoprotein L 1 (APOL1) genes. We evaluated 167 variants spanning MYH9 for association with LN in a multiethnic sample. The two previously identified risk variants in APOL1 were also tested for association with LN in European-Americans (EAs) (N = 579) and African-Americans (AAs) (N = 407). Multiple peaks of association exceeding a Bonferroni corrected p-value of p < 2.03 × 10−3 were observed between LN and MYH9 in EAs (N=4620), with the most pronounced association at rs2157257 (p = 4.7 × 10−4; odds ratio [OR]=1.205). A modest effect with MYH9 was also detected in Gullah (rs8136069, p = 0.0019, OR = 2.304). No association between LN and MYH9 was found in AAs, Asians, Amerindians or Hispanics. This study provides the first investigation of MYH9 in LN in non-Africans and of APOL1 in LN in any population and presents novel insight into the potential role of MYH9 in LN in EAs.
MYH9; APOL1; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; multiethnic association study
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a common chronic autoimmune disease characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of exocrine glands. Affected cases commonly present with oral and ocular dryness, thought to be the result of inflammatory cell-mediated gland dysfunction. To identify important molecular pathways involved in SS, we used high-density microarrays to define global gene expression profiles in peripheral blood. We first analyzed 21 SS cases and 23 controls and identified a prominent pattern of overexpressed genes that are inducible by interferons (IFNs). These results were confirmed by evaluation of a second independent dataset of 17 SS cases and 22 controls. Additional inflammatory and immune-related pathways with altered expression patterns in SS cases included B and T cell receptor, IGF-1, GM-CSF, PPARα/RXRα, and PI3/AKT signaling. Exploration of these data for relationships to clinical features of disease revealed that expression levels for most IFN-inducible genes were positively correlated with titers of anti-Ro/SSA (P<0.001) and anti-La/SSB (P<0.001) autoantibodies. Diagnostic and therapeutic approaches targeting IFN signaling pathway may prove most effective in the subset of SS cases who produce anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB autoantibodies. Our results strongly support innate and adaptive immune processes in the pathogenesis of SS and provide numerous candidate disease markers for further study.
Genetic variation was first shown to be part of the cause of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) in the 1970s with associations in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region. Almost four decades later, and with the help of increasingly powerful genetic approaches, more than 25 genes are now known to contribute to the mechanisms that predispose individuals to lupus. Over half of these loci have been discovered in the past two years, underscoring the extraordinary success of recent genome-wide association approaches in SLE. The now well established genetic risk factors include alleles in the MHC region (multiple genes), IRF5, ITGAM, STAT4, BLK, BANK1, PDCD1, PTPN22, TNFSF4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, ATG5, XKR6, PXK, some of the Fcγ receptors, and deficiencies in several complement components, including C1q, C4, and C2. As reviewed here, many of these genes fall into key pathways that are consistent with previous studies implicating immune complexes, host immune signal transduction, and interferon pathways in the pathogenesis of SLE. Other genetic loci have no known function or apparent immunological role and have the potential to reveal novel disease mechanisms. Certainly, as our understanding of the genetic etiology of SLE continues to mature, important new opportunities will emerge for developing more targeted and effective diagnostic and clinical management tools for this complex autoimmune disease.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, OMIM 152700) is an autoimmune disease characterized by self-reactive antibodies resulting in systemic inflammation and organ failure. TNFAIP3, encoding the ubiquitin-modifying enzyme A20, is an established susceptibility locus for SLE. By fine mapping and genomic resequencing in ethnically diverse populations we fully characterized the TNFAIP3 risk haplotype and isolated a novel TT>A polymorphic dinucleotide associated with SLE in subjects of European (P = 1.58 × 10−8; odds ratio (OR) = 1.70) and Korean (P = 8.33 × 10−10; OR = 2.54) ancestry. This variant, located in a region of high conservation and regulatory potential, bound a nuclear protein complex comprised of NF-κB subunits with reduced avidity. Furthermore, compared with the non-risk haplotype, the haplotype carrying this variant resulted in reduced TNFAIP3 mRNA and A20 protein expression. These results establish this TT>A variant as the most likely functional polymorphism responsible for the association between TNFAIP3 and SLE.
TNFAIP3 encodes the ubiquitin modifying enzyme, A20, a key regulator of inflammatory signaling pathways. We previously reported association between TNFAIP3 variants and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In order to further localize the risk variant(s), we performed a meta-analysis using genetic data available from two Caucasian case/control datasets (1453 total cases, 3381 total controls) and 713 SLE trio families. The best result was found at rs5029939 (P = 1.67 × 10−14, OR = 2.09, 95% CI 1.68–2.60). We then imputed SNPs from the CEU Phase II HapMap using genotypes from 431 SLE cases and 2155 controls. Imputation identified eleven SNPs in addition to three observed SNPs, which together, defined a 109 kb SLE risk segment surrounding TNFAIP3. When evaluating whether the rs5029939 risk allele was associated with SLE clinical manifestations, we observed that heterozygous carriers of the TNFAIP3 risk allele at rs5029939 have a two-fold increased risk of developing renal or hematologic manifestations compared to homozygous non-risk subjects. In summary, our study strengthens the genetic evidence that variants in the region of TNFAIP3 influence risk for SLE, particularly in patients with renal and hematologic manifestations, and narrows the risk effect to a 109 kb DNA segment that spans the TNFAIP3 gene.
systemic lupus erythematosus; TNFAIP3; imputation; meta-analysis
SLE is an autoimmune disease influenced by genetic and environmental components. We performed a genome-wide association scan (GWAS) and observed novel association evidence with a variant inTNFAIP3(rs5029939, P = 2.89×10−12, OR = 2.29). We also found evidence of two independent signals of association to SLE risk, including one described in Rheumatoid Arthritis. These results establish that genetic variation inTNFAIP3contributes to differential risk for SLE and RA.