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1.  Evaluation of SLE Susceptibility Genes in Malaysians 
Autoimmune Diseases  2014;2014:305436.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disease with strong genetic and environmental components. Our objective was to replicate 25 recently identified SLE susceptibility genes in two distinct populations (Chinese (CH) and Malays (MA)) from Malaysia. We genotyped 347 SLE cases and 356 controls (CH and MA) using the ImmunoChip array and performed an admixture corrected case-control association analysis. Associated genes were grouped into five immune-related pathways. While CH were largely homogenous, MA had three ancestry components (average 82.3% Asian, 14.5% European, and 3.2% African). Ancestry proportions were significantly different between cases and controls in MA. We identified 22 genes with at least one associated SNP (P < 0.05). The strongest signal was at HLA-DRA (PMeta = 9.96 × 10−9; PCH = 6.57 × 10−8, PMA = 6.73 × 10−3); the strongest non-HLA signal occurred at STAT4 (PMeta = 1.67 × 10−7; PCH = 2.88 × 10−6, PMA = 2.99 × 10−3). Most of these genes were associated with B- and T-cell function and signaling pathways. Our exploratory study using high-density fine-mapping suggests that most of the established SLE genes are also associated in the major ethnicities of Malaysia. However, these novel SNPs showed stronger association in these Asian populations than with the SNPs reported in previous studies.
PMCID: PMC3948475  PMID: 24696779
2.  Admixture Mapping in Lupus Identifies Multiple Functional Variants within IFIH1 Associated with Apoptosis, Inflammation, and Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003222.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component. African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of SLE, but the genetic basis of this risk is largely unknown. To identify causal variants in SLE loci in AA, we performed admixture mapping followed by fine mapping in AA and European-Americans (EA). Through genome-wide admixture mapping in AA, we identified a strong SLE susceptibility locus at 2q22–24 (LOD = 6.28), and the admixture signal is associated with the European ancestry (ancestry risk ratio ∼1.5). Large-scale genotypic analysis on 19,726 individuals of African and European ancestry revealed three independently associated variants in the IFIH1 gene: an intronic variant, rs13023380 [Pmeta = 5.20×10−14; odds ratio, 95% confidence interval = 0.82 (0.78–0.87)], and two missense variants, rs1990760 (Ala946Thr) [Pmeta = 3.08×10−7; 0.88 (0.84–0.93)] and rs10930046 (Arg460His) [Pdom = 1.16×10−8; 0.70 (0.62–0.79)]. Both missense variants produced dramatic phenotypic changes in apoptosis and inflammation-related gene expression. We experimentally validated function of the intronic SNP by DNA electrophoresis, protein identification, and in vitro protein binding assays. DNA carrying the intronic risk allele rs13023380 showed reduced binding efficiency to a cellular protein complex including nucleolin and lupus autoantigen Ku70/80, and showed reduced transcriptional activity in vivo. Thus, in SLE patients, genetic susceptibility could create a biochemical imbalance that dysregulates nucleolin, Ku70/80, or other nucleic acid regulatory proteins. This could promote antibody hypermutation and auto-antibody generation, further destabilizing the cellular network. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
Author Summary
African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the genetic basis of this risk increase is largely unknown. We used admixture mapping to localize disease-causing genetic variants that differ in frequency across populations. This approach is advantageous for localizing susceptibility genes in recently admixed populations like AA. Our genome-wide admixture scan identified seven admixture signals, and we followed the best signal at 2q22–24 with fine-mapping, imputation-based association analysis and experimental validation. We identified two independent coding variants and a non-coding variant within the IFIH1 gene associated with SLE. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3575474  PMID: 23441136
3.  Genomewide Linkage Scan for Diabetic Renal Failure and Albuminuria: The FIND Study 
American Journal of Nephrology  2011;33(5):381-389.
Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The multicenter FIND consortium aims to identify genes for DN and its associated quantitative traits, e.g. the urine albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR). Herein, the results of whole-genome linkage analysis and a sparse association scan for ACR and a dichotomous DN phenotype are reported in diabetic individuals.
A genomewide scan comprising more than 5,500 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphism markers (average spacing of 0.6 cM) was performed on 1,235 nuclear and extended pedigrees (3,972 diabetic participants) ascertained for DN from African-American (AA), American-Indian (AI), European-American (EA) and Mexican-American (MA) populations.
Strong evidence for linkage to DN was detected on chromosome 6p (p = 8.0 × 10−5, LOD = 3.09) in EA families as well as suggestive evidence for linkage to chromosome 7p in AI families. Regions on chromosomes 3p in AA, 7q in EA, 16q in AA and 22q in MA displayed suggestive evidence of linkage for urine ACR. The linkage peak on chromosome 22q overlaps the MYH9/APOL1 gene region, previously implicated in AA diabetic and nondiabetic nephropathies.
These results strengthen the evidence for previously identified genomic regions and implicate several novel loci potentially involved in the pathogenesis of DN.
PMCID: PMC3078269  PMID: 21454968
Albuminuria; Diabetes mellitus; Renal failure; End-stage renal disease; Linkage; Allelic association
4.  Admixture in Hispanic-Americans: Its impact on ITGAM association and implications for admixture mapping in SLE 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):539-545.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) disproportionately affects minorities, such as Hispanic-Americans. Prevalence of SLE is 3–5 times higher in Hispanic Americans (HA) than European derived populations, and have more active disease at the time of diagnosis, with more serious organ system involvement. HA is an admixed population, it is possible that there is an effect of admixture on the relative risk of disease. This admixture can create substantial increase of linkage disequilibrium (LD) in both magnitude and range, which can provide a unique opportunity for admixture mapping. Main objectives of this study are to (a) estimate hidden population structure in HA individuals; (b) estimate individual ancestry proportions and its impact on SLE risk; (c) assess impact of admixture on ITGAM association, a recently identified SLE susceptibility gene; and (d) estimate power of admixture mapping in HA. Our dataset contained 1,125 individuals, of whom 884 (657 SLE cases and 227 controls) were self classified as HA. Using 107 unlinked ancestry informative markers (AIMs) we estimated hidden population structure and individual ancestry in HA. Out of 5,671 possible pair-wise LD, 54% were statistically significant, indicating recent population admixture. The best fitted model for HA was a four population model with average ancestry of European (48%), American-Indian (40%), African (8%) and a fourth population (4%) with unknown ancestry. We also identified significant higher risk associated with American-Indian ancestry (OR=4.84, P=0.0001, 95%CI=2.14—10.95) on overall SLE. We showed that ITGAM is associated as a risk factor for SLE (OR= 2.06, P=8.74×10−5, 95%CI=1.44–2.97). This association is not affected by population substructure or admixture. We have demonstrated that HA have great potential and are an 3 appropriate population for admixture mapping. As expected, the case-only design is more powerful than case-control design, for any given admixture proportion or ancestry risk ratio.
PMCID: PMC2714406  PMID: 19387459
SLE; Association; Hispanics; Admixture mapping; Hispanic-American; Population structure
5.  Heritability of the Severity of Diabetic Retinopathy: The FIND-Eye Study 
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic nephropathy (DN) are serious microvascular complications of diabetes mellitus. Correlations between severity of DR and DN and computed heritability estimates for DR were determined in a large, multiethnic sample of diabetic families. The hypothesis was that (1) the severity of DR correlates with the presence and severity of nephropathy in individuals with diabetes mellitus, and (2) the severity of DR is under significant familial influence in members of multiplex diabetic families.
The Family Investigation of Nephropathy and Diabetes (FIND) was designed to evaluate the genetic basis of DN in American Indians, European Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. FIND enrolled probands with advanced DN, along with their diabetic siblings who were concordant and discordant for nephropathy. These diabetic family members were invited to participate in the FIND-Eye study to determine whether inherited factors underlie susceptibility to DR and its severity. FIND-Eye participants underwent eye examinations and had fundus photographs taken. The severity of DR was graded by using the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study Classification (ETDRS). Sib–sib correlations were calculated with the SAGE 5.0 program FCOR, to estimate heritability of retinopathy severity.
This report summarizes the results for the first 2368 diabetic subjects from 767 families enrolled in FIND-Eye; nearly 50% were Mexican American, the largest single ethnicity within FIND. The overall prevalence of DR was high; 33.4% had proliferative DR; 7.5%, 22.8%, and 9.5% had severe, moderate, and mild nonproliferative DR, respectively; 26.6% had no DR. The severity of DR was significantly associated with severity of DN, both by phenotypic category and by increasing serum creatinine concentration (χ2 = 658.14, df = 20; P < 0.0001). The sib–sib correlation for DR severity was 0.1358 in the total sample and 0.1224 when limited to the Mexican-American sample. Broad sense heritabilities for DR were 27% overall and 24% in Mexican-American families. The polygenic heritability of liability for proliferative DR approximated 25% in this FIND-Eye sample.
These data confirm that the severity of DR parallels the presence and severity of nephropathy in individuals with diabetes mellitus. The severity of DR in members of multiplex diabetic families appears to have a significant familial connection.
PMCID: PMC2583147  PMID: 18765632

Results 1-5 (5)