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1.  Estimation of Cell-Type Composition Including T and B Cell Subtypes for Whole Blood Methylation Microarray Data 
DNA methylation levels vary markedly by cell-type makeup of a sample. Understanding these differences and estimating the cell-type makeup of a sample is an important aspect of studying DNA methylation. DNA from leukocytes in whole blood is simple to obtain and pervasive in research. However, leukocytes contain many distinct cell types and subtypes. We propose a two-stage model that estimates the proportions of six main cell types in whole blood (CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, monocytes, B cells, granulocytes, and natural killer cells) as well as subtypes of T and B cells. Unlike previous methods that only estimate overall proportions of CD4+ T cell, CD8+ T cells, and B cells, our model is able to estimate proportions of naïve, memory, and regulatory CD4+ T cells as well as naïve and memory CD8+ T cells and naïve and memory B cells. Using real and simulated data, we are able to demonstrate that our model is able to reliably estimate proportions of these cell types and subtypes. In studies with DNA methylation data from Illumina's HumanMethylation450k arrays, our estimates will be useful both for testing for associations of cell type and subtype composition with phenotypes of interest as well as for adjustment purposes to prevent confounding in epigenetic association studies. Additionally, our method can be easily adapted for use with whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data or any other genome-wide methylation data platform.
PMCID: PMC4757643  PMID: 26925097
DNA methylation; whole blood; T cell subtypes; B cell subtypes; epigenetics; deconvolution; cell-type composition
2.  Association of Granulomatosis With Polyangiitis (Wegener’s) With HLA–DPB1*04 and SEMA6A Gene Variants Evidence From Genome-Wide Analysis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(9):2457-2468.
To identify genetic determinants of granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s) (GPA).
We carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 492 GPA cases and 1,506 healthy controls (white subjects of European descent), followed by replication analysis of the most strongly associated signals in an independent cohort of 528 GPA cases and 1,228 controls.
Genome-wide significant associations were identified in 32 single-nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers across the HLA region, the majority of which were located in the HLA–DPB1 and HLA–DPA1 genes encoding the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) DPβ chain 1 and DPα chain 1 proteins, respectively. Peak association signals in these 2 genes, emanating from SNPs rs9277554 (for DPβ chain 1) and rs9277341 (DPα chain 1) were strongly replicated in an independent cohort (in the combined analysis of the initial cohort and the replication cohort, P = 1.92 × 10−50 and 2.18 × 10−39, respectively). Imputation of classic HLA alleles and conditional analyses revealed that the SNP association signal was fully accounted for by the classic HLA–DPB1*04 allele. An independent single SNP, rs26595, near SEMA6A (the gene for semaphorin 6A) on chromosome 5, was also associated with GPA, reaching genome-wide significance in a combined analysis of the GWAS and replication cohorts (P = 2.09 × 10−8).
We identified the SEMA6A and HLA–DP loci as significant contributors to risk for GPA, with the HLA–DPB1*04 allele almost completely accounting for the MHC association. These two associations confirm the critical role of immunogenetic factors in the development of GPA.
PMCID: PMC4471994  PMID: 23740775
3.  FcγRIIIa SNPs and haplotypes affect human IgG binding and association with lupus nephritis in African Americans 
To investigate whether the FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L polymorphism influences net effective receptor function and to assess if the FCGR3A combined genotypes formed by FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L and FcγRIIIa-176F/V as well as copy number variation (CNV) confer risk for development of SLE and lupus nephritis.
FcγRIIIa variants, expressed on A20 IIA1.6 cells, were used in flow cytometry-based human IgG binding assays. FCGR3A SNP and CNV genotypes were determined by Pyrosequencing methodology in a cohort of 1728 SLE patients and 2404 healthy controls.
The FcγRIIIa-66L/H/R (rs10127939) polymorphism influences ligand binding capacity in the context of the FcγRIIIa-176V (rs396991) allele. The low binding FcγRIIIa-176F allele was associated with SLE nephritis (p = 0.0609) in African Americans but not in European Americans (p > 0.10). Nephritis among African American SLE subjects was associated with FcγRIIIa low binding haplotypes containing the 66R/H/L and 176F variants (p = 0.03) and with low binding genotype combinations (p = 0.002). No association was observed in European American SLE patients. The distribution of FCGR3A CNV was not significantly different between controls and SLE patients with or without nephritis.
FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L influences ligand binding. The low binding haplotypes formed by 66R/H/L and 176F confer enhanced risk for lupus nephritis in African Americans. FCGR3A CNVs are not associated with SLE or SLE nephritis in either African Americans or European Americans.
PMCID: PMC4069204  PMID: 24782186
4.  FcγR gene copy number in Kawasaki disease and intravenous immunoglobulin treatment response 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2013;23(9):455-462.
Kawasaki disease (KD), response to intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy, and associated coronary artery disease progression have been associated with genetic polymorphisms in Fc gamma receptor (FcγR) genes. However, it is not known whether the existing gene copy number (GCN) variability relates to KD treatment response, susceptibility, or associated sequelae.
The copy number of individuals with KD (n = 510) and their family members (n = 808) for three variable FcγRs was assessed using pyrosequencing. We performed the transmission disequilibrium test to examine the association of GCN for FcγRs (FcγR2C, FcγR3A, and FcγR3B) with susceptibility and used logistic regression models to determine its association with IVIG treatment outcomes.
FcγR2C and FcγR3B GCN were significantly associated with KD susceptibility. IVIG response was associated with GCN variations of FcγR3B in Whites and FcγR2C in Hispanics, and gene risk score based on single nucleotide polymorphism and GCN in FcγRs were significantly different between IVIG responders and nonresponders among Whites. We found no significant associations between coronary artery disease and any of the FcγR copy numbers.
GCN of FcγR2C and FcγR3B influences IVIG treatment response and predisposes individuals to KD, providing potential insights into understanding the mechanism of the FcγR gene family in the IVIG pathway.
PMCID: PMC4400828  PMID: 23778324
copy number variation; FcγR; genetic risk; intravenous immunoglobulin; Kawasaki disease
5.  Multiple Lupus Associated ITGAM Variants Alter Mac-1 Function on Neutrophils 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(11):2907-2916.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the ITGAM locus (including the non-synonymous SNPs rs1143679, rs1143678, rs1143683) are associated with SLE. ITGAM encodes the protein CD11b, a subunit of the β2 integrin Mac-1. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of ITGAM genetic variation on the biological functions of neutrophil Mac-1.
Neutrophils from ITGAM genotyped and sequenced healthy donors were isolated for functional studies. The phagocytic capacity of neutrophil ITGAM variants was probed with complement coated erythrocytes, serum treated zymosan, heat treated zymosan and IgG coated erythrocytes. The adhesion capacity of ITGAM variants, in adhering to either purified intercellular adhesion molecule 1 or tumor necrosis factor α-stimulated endothelial cells was assessed in a flow chamber. Expression levels of total CD11b and activation of CD11b were assessed by flow cytometry.
Mac-1–mediated neutrophil phagocytosis, determined in cultures with 2 different complement-coated particles, was significantly reduced in individuals with nonsynonymous variant alleles of ITGAM. This reduction in phagocytosis was related to variation at either rs1143679 (in the β-propeller region) or rs1143678/rs1143683 (highly linked SNPs in the cytoplasmic/calf-1 regions). Phagocytosis mediated by Fcγ receptors was also significantly reduced in donors with variant ITGAM alleles. Similarly, firm adhesion of neutrophils was significantly reduced in individuals with variant ITGAM alleles. These functional alterations were not attributable to differences in total receptor expression or activation.
The nonsynonymous ITGAM variants rs1143679 and rs1143678/rs113683 contribute to altered Mac-1 function on neutrophils. These results underscore the need to consider multiple nonsynonymous SNPs when assessing the functional consequences of ITGAM variation on immune cell processes and the risk of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3969028  PMID: 23918739
6.  Human Neutrophil Flow Chamber Adhesion Assay 
Neutrophil firm adhesion to endothelial cells plays a critical role in inflammation in both health and disease. The process of neutrophil firm adhesion involves many different adhesion molecules including members of the β2 integrin family and their counter-receptors of the ICAM family. Recently, naturally occurring genetic variants in both β2 integrins and ICAMs are reported to be associated with autoimmune disease. Thus, the quantitative adhesive capacity of neutrophils from individuals with varying allelic forms of these adhesion molecules is important to study in relation to mechanisms underlying development of autoimmunity. Adhesion studies in flow chamber systems can create an environment with fluid shear stress similar to that observed in the blood vessel environment in vivo. Here, we present a method using a flow chamber assay system to study the quantitative adhesive properties of human peripheral blood neutrophils to human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) and to purified ligand substrates. With this method, the neutrophil adhesive capacities from donors with different allelic variants in adhesion receptors can be assessed and compared. This method can also be modified to assess adhesion of other primary cell types or cell lines.
PMCID: PMC4166108  PMID: 25045887
Immunology; Issue 89; neutrophil adhesion; flow chamber; human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC); purified ligand
7.  End-Stage Renal Disease in African Americans With Lupus Nephritis Is Associated With APOL1 
Lupus nephritis (LN) is a severe manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that exhibits familial aggregation and may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). LN is more prevalent among African Americans than among European Americans. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) nephropathy risk alleles G1/G2, common in African Americans and rare in European Americans, contribute to the ethnic disparity in risk.
APOL1 G1 and G2 nephropathy alleles were genotyped in 855 African American SLE patients with LN-ESRD (cases) and 534 African American SLE patients without nephropathy (controls) and tested for association under a recessive genetic model, by logistic regression.
Ninety percent of the SLE patients were female. The mean ± SD age at SLE diagnosis was significantly lower in LN-ESRD cases than in SLE non-nephropathy controls (27.3 ± 10.9 years versus 39.5 ± 12.2 years). The mean ± SD time from SLE diagnosis to development of LN-ESRD in cases was 7.3 ± 7.2 years. The G1/G2 risk alleles were strongly associated with SLE-ESRD, with 25% of cases and 12% of controls having 2 nephropathy alleles (odds ratio [OR] 2.57, recessive model P = 1.49 × 10−9), and after adjustment for age, sex, and ancestry admixture (OR 2.72, P = 6.23 × 10−6). The age-, sex-, and admixture-adjusted population attributable risk for ESRD among patients with G1/G2 polymorphisms was 0.26, compared to 0.003 among European American patients. The mean time from SLE diagnosis to ESRD development was ~2 years earlier among individuals with APOL1 risk genotypes (P = 0.01).
APOL1 G1/G2 alleles strongly impact the risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans, as well as the time to progression to ESRD. The high frequency of these alleles in African Americans with near absence in European Americans explains an important proportion of the increased risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC4002759  PMID: 24504811
8.  SNPs in VKORC1 are Risk Factors for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Asians 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(1):211-215.
The increased risk of thrombosis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) may be partially explained by interrelated genetic pathways for thrombosis and SLE. In a case-control analysis, we investigated whether 33 established and novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in 20 genes involved in hemostasis pathways that have been associated with deep venous thrombosis in the general population were risk factors for SLE development among Asians.
Patients in the discovery cohort were enrolled in one of two North American SLE cohorts. Patients in the replication cohort were enrolled in one of four Asian or two North American cohorts. SLE cases met American College of Rheumatology classification criteria. We first genotyped 263 Asian SLE and 357 healthy Asian control individuals for 33 SNPs using Luminex multiplex technology in the discovery phase, and then used Taqman and Immunochip assays to examine 5 SNPs in up to an additional 1496 cases and 993 controls in the Replication phase. SLE patients were compared to healthy controls for association with minor alleles in allelic models. Principal components analysis was used to control for intra-Asian ancestry in an analysis of the replication cohort.
Two genetic variants in the gene VKORC1, rs9934438 and rs9923231, were highly significant in both the discovery and replication cohorts: OR(disc) = 2.45 (p=2×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6) and OR(disc) = 2.40 (p=6×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6), respectively. These associations were significant in the replication cohort after adjustment for intra-Asian ancestry: rs9934438 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0029) and rs9923231 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0032).
Genetic variants in VKORC1, involved in vitamin K reduction and associated with DVT, are associated with SLE development in Asians. These results suggest intersecting genetic pathways for the development of SLE and thrombosis.
PMCID: PMC3670944  PMID: 23124848
systemic lupus erythematosus; single nucleotide polymorphisms; genetic risk factors
9.  The unique cytoplasmic domain of human FcγRIIIA regulates receptor mediated function 
Ligand specificity characterizes receptors for antibody and many other immune receptors, but the common use of the FcR-γ-chain as their signaling subunit challenges the concept that these receptors are functionally distinct. We hypothesized that elements for specificity might be determined by the unique cytoplasmic domain (CY) sequences of the ligand-binding α-chains of γ-chain associated receptors. Among Fcγ receptors (FcRs), a protein kinase C (PKC) phosphorylation consensus motif, [RSSTR], identified within the FcγRIIIa (CD16A) CY by in silico analysis, is specifically phosphorylated by PKCs, unlike other FcRs. Phosphorylated CD16A mediates a more robust calcium flux, tyrosine phosphorylation of Syk and pro-inflammatory cytokine production while non-phosphorylatable CD16A is more effective at activation of the Gab2/PI3K pathway, leading to enhanced degranulation. S100A4, a specific protein binding partner for CD16A-CY newly identified by yeast two-hybrid analysis, inhibits phosphorylation of CD16A-CY by PKC in vitro, and reduction of S100A4 levels in vivo enhances receptor phosphorylation upon cross-linking. Taken together, PKC-mediated phosphorylation of CD16A modulates distinct signaling pathways engaged by the receptor. Calcium activated binding of S100A4 to CD16A, promoted by the initial calcium flux, attenuates the phosphorylation of CY, and acting as a molecular switch, may both serve as a negative feedback on cytokine production pathways during sustained receptor engagement and favor a shift to degranulation, consistent with the importance of granule release following conjugate formation between CD16A+ effector cells and target cells. This switch mechanism points to new therapeutic targets and provides a frame for understanding novel receptor polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC3478424  PMID: 23024279
10.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
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.
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
11.  Impact of Genetic Ancestry and Socio-Demographic Status on the Clinical Expression of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Amerindian-European Populations 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3687-3694.
Amerindian-Europeans, Asians and African-Americans have an excess morbidity from SLE and higher prevalence of lupus nephritis than Caucasians. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between genetic ancestry and socio-demographic characteristics and clinical features in a large cohort of Amerindian-European SLE patients.
A total of 2116 SLE patients of Amerindian-European origin and 4001 SLE patients of European descent with clinical data were used in the study. Genotyping of 253 continental ancestry informative markers was performed on the Illumina platform. The STRUCTURE and ADMIXTURE software were used to determine genetic ancestry of each individual. Correlation between ancestry and socio-demographic and clinical data were analyzed using logistic regression.
The average Amerindian genetic ancestry of 2116 SLE patients was 40.7%. There was an increased risk of having renal involvement (P<0.0001, OR= 3.50 95%CI 2.63-4.63) and an early age of onset with the presence of Amerindian genetic ancestry (P<0.0001). Amerindian ancestry protected against photosensitivity (P<0.0001, OR= 0.58 95%CI 0.44-0.76), oral ulcers (P<0.0001, OR= 0.55 95%CI 0.42-0.72), and serositis (P<0.0001, OR= 0.56 95%CI 0.41-0.75) after adjustment by age, gender and age of onset. However, gender and age of onset had stronger effects on malar rash, discoid rash, arthritis and neurological involvement than genetic ancestry.
In general, genetic Amerindian ancestry correlates with lower socio-demographic status and increases the risk for developing renal involvement and SLE at an earlier age of onset.
PMCID: PMC3485439  PMID: 22886787
12.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
13.  Meta-analysis in granulomatosis with polyangiitis reveals shared susceptibility loci with rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3463-3471.
To examine the association of previously identified autoimmune disease susceptibility loci with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, formerly known as Wegener’s granulomatosis), and determine whether genetic susceptibility profiles of other autoimmune diseases are associated with GPA
Genetic data from two cohorts were meta-analyzed. Genotypes for 168 previously identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with susceptibility to different autoimmune diseases were ascertained for a total of 880 GPA cases and 1969 controls of European descent. Single marker associations were identified using additive logistic regression models. Multi-SNP associations with GPA were assessed using genetic risk scores based on susceptibility loci for Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis. Adjustment for population substructure was performed in all analyses using ancestry informative markers and principal components analysis.
Genetic polymorphisms in CTLA4 were significantly associated with GPA in the single-marker meta-analysis (OR 0.79. 95% CI 0.70–0.89, p=9.8×10−5). A genetic risk score based on rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility markers was significantly associated with GPA (OR 1.05 per 1-unit increase in genetic risk score, 95% CI 1.02–1.08, p=5.1×10−5).
Rheumatoid arthritis and GPA may arise from a similar genetic predisposition. Aside from CTLA4, other loci previously found to be associated with common autoimmune diseases were not statistically associated with GPA in this study.
PMCID: PMC3425721  PMID: 22508400
genetics; vasculitis; granulomatosis with polyangiitis; rheumatoid arthritis; CTLA4
14.  PTPN22 Association in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) with Respect to Individual Ancestry and Clinical Sub-Phenotypes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69404.
Protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) is a negative regulator of T-cell activation associated with several autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Missense rs2476601 is associated with SLE in individuals with European ancestry. Since the rs2476601 risk allele frequency differs dramatically across ethnicities, we assessed robustness of PTPN22 association with SLE and its clinical sub-phenotypes across four ethnically diverse populations. Ten SNPs were genotyped in 8220 SLE cases and 7369 controls from in European-Americans (EA), African-Americans (AA), Asians (AS), and Hispanics (HS). We performed imputation-based association followed by conditional analysis to identify independent associations. Significantly associated SNPs were tested for association with SLE clinical sub-phenotypes, including autoantibody profiles. Multiple testing was accounted for by using false discovery rate. We successfully imputed and tested allelic association for 107 SNPs within the PTPN22 region and detected evidence of ethnic-specific associations from EA and HS. In EA, the strongest association was at rs2476601 (P = 4.7×10−9, OR = 1.40 (95% CI = 1.25–1.56)). Independent association with rs1217414 was also observed in EA, and both SNPs are correlated with increased European ancestry. For HS imputed intronic SNP, rs3765598, predicted to be a cis-eQTL, was associated (P = 0.007, OR = 0.79 and 95% CI = 0.67–0.94). No significant associations were observed in AA or AS. Case-only analysis using lupus-related clinical criteria revealed differences between EA SLE patients positive for moderate to high titers of IgG anti-cardiolipin (aCL IgG >20) versus negative aCL IgG at rs2476601 (P = 0.012, OR = 1.65). Association was reinforced when these cases were compared to controls (P = 2.7×10−5, OR = 2.11). Our results validate that rs2476601 is the most significantly associated SNP in individuals with European ancestry. Additionally, rs1217414 and rs3765598 may be associated with SLE. Further studies are required to confirm the involvement of rs2476601 with aCL IgG.
PMCID: PMC3737240  PMID: 23950893
15.  Variable association of reactive intermediate genes with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in populations with different African ancestry 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(6):842-849.
Little is known about the genetic etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in individuals of African ancestry, despite its higher prevalence and greater disease severity. Overproduction of nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species are implicated in the pathogenesis and severity of SLE, making NO synthases and other reactive intermediate related genes biological candidates for disease susceptibility. This study analyzed variation in reactive intermediate genes for association with SLE in two populations with African ancestry.
A total of 244 SNPs from 53 regions were analyzed in non-Gullah African Americans (AA; 1432 cases and 1687 controls) and the genetically more homogeneous Gullah of the Sea Islands of South Carolina (133 cases and 112 controls) and. Single-marker, haplotype, and two-locus interaction tests were computed for these populations.
The glutathione reductase gene GSR (rs2253409, P=0.0014, OR [95% CI]=1.26 [1.09–1.44]) was the most significant single-SNP association in AA. In the Gullah, the NADH dehydrogenase NDUFS4 (rs381575, P=0.0065, OR [95%CI]=2.10 [1.23–3.59]) and nitric oxide synthase gene NOS1 (rs561712, P=0.0072, OR [95%CI]=0.62 [0.44–0.88]) were most strongly associated with SLE. When both populations were analyzed together, GSR remained the most significant effect (rs2253409, P=0.00072, OR [95%CI]=1.26 [1.10–1.44]). Haplotype and two-locus interaction analyses also uncovered different loci in each population.
These results suggest distinct patterns of association with SLE in African-derived populations; specific loci may be more strongly associated within select population groups.
PMCID: PMC3735344  PMID: 23637325
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; genetic association studies; oxygen compounds; single nucleotide polymorphism
16.  A Genome-wide Association Study of Host Genetic Determinants of the Antibody Response to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
Vaccine  2012;30(32):4778-4784.
Several lines of evidence have supported a host genetic contribution to vaccine response, but genome-wide assessments for specific determinants have been sparse. Here we describe a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of protective antigen-specific antibody (AbPA) responses among 726 European-Americans who received Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) as part of a clinical trial. After quality control, 736,996 SNPs were tested for association with the AbPA response to 3 or 4 AVA vaccinations given over a 6-month period. No SNP achieved the threshold of genome-wide significance (p=5x10−8), but suggestive associations (p<1x10−5) were observed for SNPs in or near the class II region of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), in the promoter region of SPSB1, and adjacent to MEX3C. Multivariable regression modeling suggested that much of the association signal within the MHC corresponded to previously identified HLA DR-DQ haplotypes involving component HLA-DRB1 alleles of *15:01, *01:01, or *01:02. We estimated the proportion of additive genetic variance explained by common SNP variation for the AbPA response after the 6 month vaccination. This analysis indicated a significant, albeit imprecisely estimated, contribution of variation tagged by common polymorphisms (p=0.032). Future studies will be required to replicate these findings in European Americans and to further elucidate the host genetic factors underlying variable immune response to AVA.
PMCID: PMC3387748  PMID: 22658931
Anthrax vaccines; Bacillus anthracis; bacterial vaccines; vaccination; Genome-wide association study
17.  Immune opsonins modulate BLyS/BAFF release in a receptor-specific fashion* 
TNF ligand superfamily member 13B (B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), B cell activating factor (BAFF)) promotes primary B cell proliferation and immunoglobulin production. While the soluble form of BLyS/BAFF is thought to be the primary biologically active form, little is known about the regulation of its cleavage and processing. We provide evidence that Fcγ receptor cross-linking triggers a rapid release of soluble, biologically active BLyS/BAFF from myeloid cells. Surprisingly, this function is primarily mediated by FcγRI, but not FcγRIIa as defined by specific mAb, and can be initiated by both IgG and C reactive protein (CRP) as ligands. The generation of a B cell proliferation and survival factor by both innate and adaptive immune opsonins through engagement of an Fcγ receptor, which can also enhance antigen uptake and presentation, provides a unique opportunity to facilitate antibody production. These results provide a mechanism by which Fcγ receptors can elevate circulating BLyS levels and promote autoantibody production in immune complex mediated autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3684394  PMID: 18606652
Fc Receptors; Monocytes/Macrophages; Human; Autoimmunity
18.  Genomic Copy Number Variants: Evidence for Association with Antibody Response to Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64813.
Anthrax and its etiologic agent remain a biological threat. Anthrax vaccine is highly effective, but vaccine-induced IgG antibody responses vary widely following required doses of vaccinations. Such variation can be related to genetic factors, especially genomic copy number variants (CNVs) that are known to be enriched among genes with immunologic function. We have tested this hypothesis in two study populations from a clinical trial of anthrax vaccination.
We performed CNV-based genome-wide association analyses separately on 794 European Americans and 200 African-Americans. Antibodies to protective antigen were measured at week 8 (early response) and week 30 (peak response) using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We used DNA microarray data (Affymetrix 6.0) and two CNV detection algorithms, hidden markov model (PennCNV) and circular binary segmentation (GeneSpring) to determine CNVs in all individuals. Multivariable regression analyses were used to identify CNV-specific associations after adjusting for relevant non-genetic covariates.
Within the 22 autosomal chromosomes, 2,943 non-overlapping CNV regions were detected by both algorithms. Genomic insertions containing HLA-DRB5, DRB1 and DQA1/DRA genes in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region (chromosome 6p21.3) were moderately associated with elevated early antibody response (β = 0.14, p = 1.78×10−3) among European Americans, and the strongest association was observed between peak antibody response and a segmental insertion on chromosome 1, containing NBPF4, NBPF5, STXMP3, CLCC1, and GPSM2 genes (β = 1.66, p = 6.06×10−5). For African-Americans, segmental deletions spanning PRR20, PCDH17 and PCH68 genes on chromosome 13 were associated with elevated early antibody production (β = 0.18, p = 4.47×10−5). Population-specific findings aside, one genomic insertion on chromosome 17 (containing NSF, ARL17 and LRRC37A genes) was associated with elevated peak antibody response in both populations.
Multiple CNV regions, including the one consisting of MHC genes that is consistent with earlier research, can be important to humoral immune responses to anthrax vaccine adsorbed.
PMCID: PMC3669407  PMID: 23741398
19.  Association of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in CCR6, TAGAP and TNFAIP3 with Rheumatoid Arthritis in African Americans 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(5):1355-1358.
We previously reported an analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three validated European rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility loci, TAGAP, TNFAIP3, and CCR6 in African-Americans with RA. Unexpectedly, the disease-associated alleles were different in African-Americans than in Europeans. In an effort to better define their contribution, we performed additional SNP genotyping in these genes.
Seven SNPs were genotyped in 446 African Americans with RA and 733 African American controls. Differences in minor allele frequency between cases and controls were analyzed after controlling for global proportion of European admixture, and pairwise linkage disequilibrium (LD) was estimated among the SNPs.
Three SNPs were significantly associated with RA: TNFAIP3 rs719149 A allele (OR (95% CI) 1.22 (1.03–1.44) (p =0.02); TAGAP rs1738074 G allele OR 0.75 (0.63–0.89), (p =0.0012); and TAGAP rs4709267 G allele 0.74 (0.60–0.91), (p =0.004). Pairwise LD between the TAGAP SNPs was low (R2=0.034). The haplotype containing minor alleles for both TAGAP SNPs was uncommon (4.5%). After conditional analysis on each TAGAP SNP, its counterpart remained significantly associated with RA (rs1738074 for rs4709267 p=0.00001; rs4709267 for rs1738074 p=0.00005), suggesting independent effects.
SNPs in regulatory regions of TAGAP and an intronic SNP (TNFAIP3) are potential susceptibility loci in African Americans. Pairwise LD, haplotype analysis, and SNP conditioning analysis suggest that these two SNPs in TAGAP are independent susceptibility alleles. Additional fine mapping of this gene and functional genomic studies of these SNPs should provide additional insight into the role of these genes in RA.
PMCID: PMC3299842  PMID: 22127930
20.  Fine Mapping of Xq28: Both MECP2 and IRAK1 Contribute to Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Multiple Ancestral Groups 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(3):437-444.
The Xq28 region containing IRAK1 and MECP2 has been identified as a risk locus for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in previous genetic association studies. However, due to the strong linkage disequilibrium between IRAK1 and MECP2, it remains unclear which gene is affected by the underlying causal variant(s) conferring risk of SLE.
We fine-mapped ≥136 SNPs in a ~227kb region on Xq28, containing IRAK1, MECP2 and 7 adjacent genes (L1CAM, AVPR2, ARHGAP4, NAA10, RENBP, HCFC1 and TMEM187), for association with SLE in 15,783 case-control subjects derived from 4 different ancestral groups.
Multiple SNPs showed strong association with SLE in European Americans, Asians and Hispanics at P<5×10−8 with consistent association in subjects with African ancestry. Of these, 6 SNPs located in the TMEM187-IRAK1-MECP2 region captured the underlying causal variant(s) residing in a common risk haplotype shared by all 4 ancestral groups. Among them, rs1059702 best explained the Xq28 association signals in conditional testings and exhibited the strongest P value in trans-ancestral meta-analysis (Pmeta=1.3×10−27, OR=1.43), and thus was considered to be the most-likely causal variant. The risk allele of rs1059702 results in the amino acid substitution S196F in IRAK1 and had previously been shown to increase NF-κB activity in vitro. We also found that the homozygous risk genotype of rs1059702 was associated with lower mRNA levels of MECP2, but not IRAK1, in SLE patients (P=0.0012) and healthy controls (P=0.0064).
These data suggest contributions of both IRAK1 and MECP2 to SLE susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3567234  PMID: 22904263
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Polymorphism; Xq28; IRAK1; MECP2
21.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
22.  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
23.  Evidence for gene-gene epistatic interactions among susceptibility loci for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(2):485-492.
Several confirmed genetic susceptibility loci for lupus have been described. To date, no clear evidence for genetic epistasis is established in lupus. We test for gene-gene interactions in a number of known lupus susceptibility loci.
Eighteen SNPs tagging independent and confirmed lupus susceptibility loci were genotyped in a set of 4,248 lupus patients and 3,818 normal healthy controls of European descent. Epistasis was tested using a 2-step approach utilizing both parametric and non-parametric methods. The false discovery rate (FDR) method was used to correct for multiple testing.
We detected and confirmed gene-gene interactions between the HLA region and CTLA4, IRF5, and ITGAM, and between PDCD1 and IL21 in lupus patients. The most significant interaction detected by parametric analysis was between rs3131379 in the HLA region and rs231775 in CTLA4 (Interaction odds ratio=1.19, z-score= 3.95, P= 7.8×10−5 (FDR≤0.05), PMDR= 5.9×10−45). Importantly, our data suggest that in lupus patients the presence of the HLA lupus-risk alleles in rs1270942 and rs3131379 increases the odds of also carrying the lupus-risk allele in IRF5 (rs2070197) by 17% and 16%, respectively (P= 0.0028 and 0.0047).
We provide evidence for gene-gene epistasis in systemic lupus erythematosus. These findings support a role for genetic interaction contributing to the complexity of lupus heritability.
PMCID: PMC3268866  PMID: 21952918
24.  A functional haplotype of UBE2L3 confers risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2012;13(5):380-387.
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.
PMCID: PMC3411915  PMID: 22476155
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; UBE2L3; Multi Ethnic Association Study; UBCH7 Expression
25.  FAS mRNA editing in human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Human mutation  2011;32(11):1268-1277.
FAS/FASL system plays a central role in maintaining peripheral immune tolerance. Human SLE is a prototypic systemic autoimmune disease characterized by expansion of autoreactive lymphocytes. It remains unclear whether a defective FAS/FASL system is involved in the pathogenesis of SLE. In this study, we have discovered a novel nucleotide insertion in FAS mRNA. We demonstrate that this novel FAS mutation occurs at mRNA levels, likely through a site-specific mRNA editing process. The mRNA editing mutation is unique for human FAS because the similar mRNA editing event is absent in other human TNFR family genes with death domains (DR5, DR6, and TNFR1) and in murine FAS. The adenine insertion mutation in the coding region message causes the alteration of human FAS mRNA reading frame. Functionally, cells expressing the edited FAS (edFAS) were refractory to FAS-mediated apoptosis. Surprisingly, cells from SLE patients produced significantly more edFAS products compared to cells from normal healthy controls. Additionally, we demonstrated that persistent engagement of T cell receptor increases human FAS mRNA editing in human T cells. Our data suggest that the site-specific FAS mRNA editing mutation may play a critical role in human immune responses and in the pathogenesis of human chronic inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3196739  PMID: 21793106
FAS; mRNA editing; apoptosis; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

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