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1.  Implication of IL-2/IL-21 region in systemic sclerosis genetic susceptibility 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(7):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202357.
The interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interleukin 21 (IL-21) locus at chromosome 4q27 has been associated with several autoimmune diseases, and both genes are related to immune system functions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of the IL-2/IL-21 locus in systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Patients and methods
The case control study included 4493 SSc Caucasian patients and 5856 healthy controls from eight Caucasian populations (Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, USA, Italy, Sweden, UK and Norway). Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs2069762, rs6822844, rs6835457 and rs907715) were genotyped using TaqMan allelic discrimination assays.
We observed evidence of association of the rs6822844 and rs907715 variants with global SSc (pc=6.6E-4 and pc=7.2E-3, respectively). Similar statistically significant associations were observed for the limited cutaneous form of the disease. The conditional regression analysis suggested that the most likely genetic variation responsible for the association was the rs6822844 polymorphism. Consistently, the rs2069762A-rs6822844T-rs6835457G-rs907715T allelic combination showed evidence of association with SSc and limited cutaneous SSc subtype (pc=1.7E-03 and pc=8E-4, respectively).
These results suggested that the IL-2/IL-21 locus influences the genetic susceptibility to SSc. Moreover, this study provided further support for the IL-2/IL-21 locus as a common genetic factor in autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3887514  PMID: 23172754
2.  Confirmation of TNIP1 but not RHOB and PSORS1C1 as systemic sclerosis risk factors in a large independent replication study 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201888.
A recent genome-wide association study in European systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients identified three loci (PSORS1C1, TNIP1 and RHOB) as novel genetic risk factors for the disease. The aim of this study was to replicate the previously mentioned findings in a large multicentre independent SSc cohort of Caucasian ancestry.
4389 SSc patients and 7611 healthy controls from different European countries and the USA were included in the study. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP): rs342070, rs13021401 (RHOB), rs2233287, rs4958881, rs3792783 (TNIP1) and rs3130573 (PSORS1C1) were analysed. Overall significance was calculated by pooled analysis of all the cohorts. Haplotype analyses and conditional logistic regression analyses were carried out to explore further the genetic structure of the tested loci.
Pooled analyses of all the analysed SNPs in TNIP1 revealed significant association with the whole disease (rs2233287 pMH=1.94×10−4, OR 1.19; rs4958881 pMH=3.26×10−5, OR 1.19; rs3792783 pMH=2.16×10−4, OR 1.19). These associations were maintained in all the subgroups considered. PSORS1C1 comparison showed association with the complete set of patients and all the subsets except for the anti-centromere-positive patients. However, the association was dependent on different HLA class II alleles. The variants in the RHOB gene were not associated with SSc or any of its subsets.
These data confirmed the influence of TNIP1 on an increased susceptibility to SSc and reinforced this locus as a common autoimmunity risk factor.
PMCID: PMC3887516  PMID: 22896740
3.  A genome-wide association study follow-up suggests a possible role for PPARG in systemic sclerosis susceptibility 
A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) comprising a French cohort of systemic sclerosis (SSc) reported several non-HLA single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) showing a nominal association in the discovery phase. We aimed to identify previously overlooked susceptibility variants by using a follow-up strategy.
Sixty-six non-HLA SNPs showing a P value <10-4 in the discovery phase of the French SSc GWAS were analyzed in the first step of this study, performing a meta-analysis that combined data from the two published SSc GWASs. A total of 2,921 SSc patients and 6,963 healthy controls were included in this first phase. Two SNPs, PPARG rs310746 and CHRNA9 rs6832151, were selected for genotyping in the replication cohort (1,068 SSc patients and 6,762 healthy controls) based on the results of the first step. Genotyping was performed by using TaqMan SNP genotyping assays.
We observed nominal associations for both PPARG rs310746 (PMH = 1.90 × 10-6, OR, 1.28) and CHRNA9 rs6832151 (PMH = 4.30 × 10-6, OR, 1.17) genetic variants with SSc in the first step of our study. In the replication phase, we observed a trend of association for PPARG rs310746 (P value = 0.066; OR, 1.17). The combined overall Mantel-Haenszel meta-analysis of all the cohorts included in the present study revealed that PPARG rs310746 remained associated with SSc with a nominal non-genome-wide significant P value (PMH = 5.00 × 10-7; OR, 1.25). No evidence of association was observed for CHRNA9 rs6832151 either in the replication phase or in the overall pooled analysis.
Our results suggest a role of PPARG gene in the development of SSc.
PMCID: PMC3978735  PMID: 24401602
4.  Identification of CSK as a systemic sclerosis genetic risk factor through Genome Wide Association Study follow-up 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(12):2825-2835.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is complex autoimmune disease affecting the connective tissue; influenced by genetic and environmental components. Recently, we performed the first successful genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SSc. Here, we perform a large replication study to better dissect the genetic component of SSc. We selected 768 polymorphisms from the previous GWAS and genotyped them in seven replication cohorts from Europe. Overall significance was calculated for replicated significant SNPs by meta-analysis of the replication cohorts and replication-GWAS cohorts (3237 cases and 6097 controls). Six SNPs in regions not previously associated with SSc were selected for validation in another five independent cohorts, up to a total of 5270 SSc patients and 8326 controls. We found evidence for replication and overall genome-wide significance for one novel SSc genetic risk locus: CSK [P-value = 5.04 × 10−12, odds ratio (OR) = 1.20]. Additionally, we found suggestive association in the loci PSD3 (P-value = 3.18 × 10−7, OR = 1.36) and NFKB1 (P-value = 1.03 × 10−6, OR = 1.14). Additionally, we strengthened the evidence for previously confirmed associations. This study significantly increases the number of known putative genetic risk factors for SSc, including the genes CSK, PSD3 and NFKB1, and further confirms six previously described ones.
PMCID: PMC3368627  PMID: 22407130
5.  A GWAS follow-up study reveals the association of the IL12RB2 gene with systemic sclerosis in Caucasian populations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):926-933.
A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) at the IL12RB2 locus showed a suggestive association signal in a previously published genome-wide association study (GWAS) in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Aiming to reveal the possible implication of the IL12RB2 gene in SSc, we conducted a follow-up study of this locus in different Caucasian cohorts. We analyzed 10 GWAS-genotyped SNPs in the IL12RB2 region (2309 SSc patients and 5161 controls). We then selected three SNPs (rs3790567, rs3790566 and rs924080) based on their significance level in the GWAS, for follow-up in an independent European cohort comprising 3344 SSc and 3848 controls. The most-associated SNP (rs3790567) was further tested in an independent cohort comprising 597 SSc patients and 1139 controls from the USA. After conditional logistic regression analysis of the GWAS data, we selected rs3790567 [PMH= 1.92 × 10−5 odds ratio (OR) = 1.19] as the genetic variant with the firmest independent association observed in the analyzed GWAS peak of association. After the first follow-up phase, only the association of rs3790567 was consistent (PMH= 4.84 × 10−3 OR = 1.12). The second follow-up phase confirmed this finding (Pχ2 = 2.82 × 10−4 OR = 1.34). After performing overall pooled-analysis of all the cohorts included in the present study, the association found for the rs3790567 SNP in the IL12RB2 gene region reached GWAS-level significant association (PMH= 2.82 × 10−9 OR = 1.17). Our data clearly support the IL12RB2 genetic association with SSc, and suggest a relevant role of the interleukin 12 signaling pathway in SSc pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3298110  PMID: 22076442
6.  The Systemic Lupus Erythematosus IRF5 Risk Haplotype Is Associated with Systemic Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54419.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a fibrotic autoimmune disease in which the genetic component plays an important role. One of the strongest SSc association signals outside the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region corresponds to interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), a major regulator of the type I IFN pathway. In this study we aimed to evaluate whether three different haplotypic blocks within this locus, which have been shown to alter the protein function influencing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility, are involved in SSc susceptibility and clinical phenotypes. For that purpose, we genotyped one representative single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of each block (rs10488631, rs2004640, and rs4728142) in a total of 3,361 SSc patients and 4,012 unaffected controls of Caucasian origin from Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and United Kingdom. A meta-analysis of the allele frequencies was performed to analyse the overall effect of these IRF5 genetic variants on SSc. Allelic combination and dependency tests were also carried out. The three SNPs showed strong associations with the global disease (rs4728142: P  = 1.34×10−8, OR  = 1.22, CI 95%  = 1.14–1.30; rs2004640: P  = 4.60×10−7, OR  = 0.84, CI 95%  = 0.78–0.90; rs10488631: P  = 7.53×10−20, OR  = 1.63, CI 95%  = 1.47–1.81). However, the association of rs2004640 with SSc was not independent of rs4728142 (conditioned P  = 0.598). The haplotype containing the risk alleles (rs4728142*A-rs2004640*T-rs10488631*C: P  = 9.04×10−22, OR  = 1.75, CI 95%  = 1.56–1.97) better explained the observed association (likelihood P-value  = 1.48×10−4), suggesting an additive effect of the three haplotypic blocks. No statistical significance was observed in the comparisons amongst SSc patients with and without the main clinical characteristics. Our data clearly indicate that the SLE risk haplotype also influences SSc predisposition, and that this association is not sub-phenotype-specific.
PMCID: PMC3553151  PMID: 23372721
7.  Analysis of Class II human leucocyte antigens in Italian and Spanish systemic sclerosis 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2011;51(1):52-59.
Objective. To determine the role of Class II HLAs in SSc patients from Italy and Spain and in SSc patients of Caucasian ancestry.
Methods. Nine hundred and forty-four SSc patients (Italy 392 patients; Spain 452 patients) and 1320 ethnically matched healthy controls (Italy 398 patients; Spain 922 patients) were genotyped up to the fourth digit by PCR with sequence-specific oligonucleotides for HLA-DRB1, DQA1 and DQB1 loci. Patients included 390 ACA-positive and 254 anti-topo I-positive subjects. Associations between SSc or SSc-specific antibodies and HLA alleles or HLA haplotypes were sought via the chi-square test after 10 000-fold permutation testing. A meta-analysis including this study cohort and other Caucasoids samples was also conducted.
Results. In both the cohorts, the strongest association was observed between the HLA-DRB1*1104 allele and SSc or anti-topo I antibodies. The HLA-DRB1*1104 -DQA1*0501 -DQB1*0301 haplotype was overrepresented in Italian [odds ratio (OR) = 2.069, 95% asymptotic CIs (CI95) 1.486, 2.881; P < 0.001] and in Spanish patients (OR = 6.707, CI95 3.974, 11.319; P < 0.001) as well as in anti-topo-positive patients: Italy (OR = 2.642, CI95 1.78, 3.924; P < 0.001) and Spain (OR = 20.625, CI95 11.536, 36.876; P < 0.001). In both the populations we also identified an additional risk allele (HLA-DQB1*03) and a protective allele (HLA-DQB1*0501) in anti-topo-positive patients. The meta-analysis showed different statistically significant associations, the most interesting being the differential association between HLA-DRB1*01 alleles and ACAs (OR = 1.724, CI95 1.482, 2.005; P < 0.001) or topo I antibodies (OR = 0.5, CI95 0.384, 0.651; P < 0.001).
Conclusions. We describe multiple robust associations between SSc and HLA Class II antigens in Caucasoids that may help to understand the genetic architecture of SSc.
PMCID: PMC3276293  PMID: 22087014
systemic sclerosis; HLA; genetics; epidemiology
8.  KCNA5 gene is not confirmed as a systemic sclerosis-related pulmonary arterial hypertension genetic susceptibility factor 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R273.
Potassium voltage-gated channel shaker-related subfamily member 5 (KCNA5) is implicated in vascular tone regulation, and its inhibition during hypoxia produces pulmonary vasoconstriction. Recently, a protective association of the KCNA5 locus with systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) was reported. Hence, the aim of this study was to replicate these findings in an independent multicenter Caucasian SSc cohort.
The 2,343 SSc cases (179 PAH positive, confirmed by right-heart catheterization) and 2,690 matched healthy controls from five European countries were included in this study. Rs10744676 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was genotyped by using a TaqMan SNP genotyping assay.
Individual population analyses of the selected KCNA5 genetic variant did not show significant association with SSc or any of the defined subsets (for example, limited cutaneous SSc, diffuse cutaneous SSc, anti-centromere autoantibody positive and anti-topoisomerase autoantibody positive). Furthermore, pooled analyses revealed no significant evidence of association with the disease or any of the subsets, not even the PAH-positive group. The comparison of PAH-positive patients with PAH-negative patients showed no significant differences among patients.
Our data do not support an important role of KCNA5 as an SSc-susceptibility factor or as a PAH-development genetic marker for SSc patients.
PMCID: PMC3674598  PMID: 23270786
9.  Analysis of the association between CD40 and CD40 ligand polymorphisms and systemic sclerosis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R154.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible role of CD40 and CD40 ligand (CD40LG) genes in the susceptibility and phenotype expression of systemic sclerosis (SSc).
In total, 2,670 SSc patients and 3,245 healthy individuals from four European populations (Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy) were included in the study. Five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of CD40 (rs1883832, rs4810485, rs1535045) and CD40LG (rs3092952, rs3092920) were genotyped by using a predesigned TaqMan allele-discrimination assay technology. Meta-analysis was assessed to determine whether an association exists between the genetic variants and SSc or its main clinical subtypes.
No evidence of association between CD40 and CD40LG genes variants and susceptibility to SSc was observed. Similarly, no significant statistical differences were observed when SSc patients were stratified by the clinical subtypes, the serologic features, and pulmonary fibrosis.
Our results do not suggest an important role of CD40 and CD40LG gene polymorphisms in the susceptibility to or clinical expression of SSc.
PMCID: PMC3446540  PMID: 22731751
10.  A multicenter study confirms CD226 gene association with systemic sclerosis-related pulmonary fibrosis 
CD226 genetic variants have been associated with a number of autoimmune diseases and recently with systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of this study was to test the influence of CD226 loci in SSc susceptibility, clinical phenotypes and autoantibody status in a large multicenter European population.
A total of seven European populations of Caucasian ancestry were included, comprising 2,131 patients with SSc and 3,966 healthy controls. Three CD226 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs763361, rs3479968 and rs727088, were genotyped using Taqman 5'allelic discrimination assays.
Pooled analyses showed no evidence of association of the three SNPs, neither with the global disease nor with the analyzed subphenotypes. However, haplotype block analysis revealed a significant association for the TCG haplotype (SNP order: rs763361, rs34794968, rs727088) with lung fibrosis positive patients (PBonf = 3.18E-02 OR 1.27 (1.05 to 1.54)).
Our data suggest that the tested genetic variants do not individually influence SSc susceptibility but a CD226 three-variant haplotype is related with genetic predisposition to SSc-related pulmonary fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3446459  PMID: 22531499
12.  Survival dimensionality reduction (SDR): development and clinical application of an innovative approach to detect epistasis in presence of right-censored data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:416.
Epistasis is recognized as a fundamental part of the genetic architecture of individuals. Several computational approaches have been developed to model gene-gene interactions in case-control studies, however, none of them is suitable for time-dependent analysis. Herein we introduce the Survival Dimensionality Reduction (SDR) algorithm, a non-parametric method specifically designed to detect epistasis in lifetime datasets.
The algorithm requires neither specification about the underlying survival distribution nor about the underlying interaction model and proved satisfactorily powerful to detect a set of causative genes in synthetic epistatic lifetime datasets with a limited number of samples and high degree of right-censorship (up to 70%). The SDR method was then applied to a series of 386 Dutch patients with active rheumatoid arthritis that were treated with anti-TNF biological agents. Among a set of 39 candidate genes, none of which showed a detectable marginal effect on anti-TNF responses, the SDR algorithm did find that the rs1801274 SNP in the FcγRIIa gene and the rs10954213 SNP in the IRF5 gene non-linearly interact to predict clinical remission after anti-TNF biologicals.
Simulation studies and application in a real-world setting support the capability of the SDR algorithm to model epistatic interactions in candidate-genes studies in presence of right-censored data.
PMCID: PMC2928804  PMID: 20691091
14.  A polymorphism in the human serotonin 5-HT2A receptor gene may protect against systemic sclerosis by reducing platelet aggregation 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2008;10(5):R103.
Platelet aggregation may contribute to the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis: following activation, platelets release significant amounts of serotonin – which promotes vasoconstriction and fibrosis, and further enhances aggregation. The C+1354T polymorphism in the exonic region of the serotonin 2A receptor gene determining the His452Tyr substitution was associated with blunted intracellular responses after serotonin stimulation, and may have a role in susceptibility to scleroderma.
One hundred and fifteen consecutive systemic sclerosis patients and 140 well-matched healthy control individuals were genotyped by sequence-specific primer-PCR for the His452Tyr substitution of the serotonin 2A receptor gene, and associations were sought with scleroderma and its main clinical features. The functional relevance of the His452Tyr substitution was also assessed by evaluating the aggregation of platelet-rich plasma from His452/His452 and His452/Tyr452 healthy individuals after stimulation with adenosine diphosphate ± serotonin.
The T allele of the C+1354T polymorphism was underrepresented in scleroderma patients compared with control individuals (5.2% versus 12.4%, P < 0.001, chi-square test and 1,000-fold permutation test) and its carriage reduced the risk for systemic sclerosis (odds ratio = 0.39, 95% confidence interval = 0.19 to 0.85, P < 0.01). Platelets from His452/Tyr452 healthy subjects more weakly responded to serotonin stimulation compared with platelets from His452/His452 individuals (3.2 ± 2.6-fold versus 9.6 ± 8.6-fold increase in aggregation, P = 0.017 by Kolmogorov–Smirnov test and P = 0.003 after correction for baseline adenosine diphosphate-induced aggregation values).
The His452Tyr substitution may influence susceptibility to systemic sclerosis by altering platelet aggregation in response to serotonin.
PMCID: PMC2592780  PMID: 18761744

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