It is generally believed that susceptibility to both organ-specific and systemic autoimmune diseases is under polygenic control. Although multiple genes have been implicated in each type of autoimmune disease, few are known to have a significant impact on both. Here, we investigated the significance of polymorphisms in the human gene CD24 and the susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We used cases/control studies to determine the association between CD24 polymorphism and the risk of MS and SLE. In addition, we also considered transmission disequilibrium tests using family data from two cohorts consisting of a total of 150 pedigrees of MS families and 187 pedigrees of SLE families. Our analyses revealed that a dinucleotide deletion at position 1527∼1528 (P1527del) from the CD24 mRNA translation start site is associated with a significantly reduced risk (odds ratio = 0.54 with 95% confidence interval = 0.34–0.82) and delayed progression (p = 0.0188) of MS. Among the SLE cohort, we found a similar reduction of risk with the same polymorphism (odds ratio = 0.38, confidence interval = 0.22–0.62). More importantly, using 150 pedigrees of MS families from two independent cohorts and the TRANSMIT software, we found that the P1527del allele was preferentially transmitted to unaffected individuals (p = 0.002). Likewise, an analysis of 187 SLE families revealed the dinucleotide-deleted allele was preferentially transmitted to unaffected individuals (p = 0.002). The mRNA levels for the dinucleotide-deletion allele were 2.5-fold less than that of the wild-type allele. The dinucleotide deletion significantly reduced the stability of CD24 mRNA. Our results demonstrate that a destabilizing dinucleotide deletion in the 3′ UTR of CD24 mRNA conveys significant protection against both MS and SLE.
When an individual's immune system attacks self tissues or organs, he/she develops autoimmune diseases. Although it is well established that multiple genes control susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, most of the genes remain unidentified. In addition, although different autoimmune diseases have a common immunological basis, a very small number of genes have been identified that affect multiple autoimmune diseases. Here we show that a variation in CD24 is a likely genetic factor for the risk and progression of two types of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), an organ-specific autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system, and systemic lupus erythematosus, a systemic autoimmune disease. Our data indicated that if an individual's CD24 gene has a specific two-nucleotide deletion in the noncoding region of CD24 mRNA, his/her risk of developing MS or SLE is reduced by 2- to 3-fold. As a group, MS patients with the two-nucleotide deletion will likely have a slower disease progression. Biochemical analysis indicated that the deletion leads to rapid decay of CD24 mRNA, which should result in reduced synthesis of the CD24 protein. Our data may be useful for the treatment and diagnosis of autoimmune diseases.