To determine whether genetic substructure in European-derived populations is associated with specific manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), including mucocutaneous phenotypes, autoantibody production, and renal disease.
SLE patients of European descent (n=1754) from 8 case collections were genotyped for over 1,400 ancestry informative markers that define a north/south gradient of European substructure. Based on these genetic markers, we used the STRUCTURE program to characterize each SLE patient in terms of percent northern (vs. southern) European ancestry. Non-parametric methods, including tests of trend, were used to identify associations between northern European ancestry and specific SLE manifestations.
In multivariate analyses, increasing levels of northern European ancestry were significantly associated with photosensitivity (ptrend=0.0021, OR for highest quartile of northern European ancestry compared to lowest quartile 1.64, 95% CI 1.13–2.35) and discoid rash (ptrend=0.014, ORhigh-low 1.93, 95% CI 0.98–3.83). In contrast, northern European ancestry was protective for anticardiolipin (ptrend=1.6 × 10−4, ORhigh-low 0.46, 95% CI 0.30–0.69) and anti-dsDNA (ptrend=0.017, ORhigh-low 0.67, 95% CI 0.46–0.96) autoantibody production.
This study demonstrates that specific SLE manifestations vary according to northern vs. southern European ancestry. Thus, genetic ancestry may contribute to the clinical heterogeneity and variation in disease outcomes among SLE patients of European descent. Moreover, these results suggest that genetic studies of SLE subphenotypes will need to carefully address issues of population substructure due to genetic ancestry.