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1.  Allelic heterogeneity in NCF2 associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility across four ethnic populations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(6):1656-1668.
Recent reports have associated NCF2, encoding a core component of the multi-protein NADPH oxidase (NADPHO), with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility in individuals of European ancestry. To identify ethnicity-specific and -robust variants within NCF2, we assessed 145 SNPs in and around the NCF2 gene in 5325 cases and 21 866 controls of European-American (EA), African-American (AA), Hispanic (HS) and Korean (KR) ancestry. Subsequent imputation, conditional, haplotype and bioinformatic analyses identified seven potentially functional SLE-predisposing variants. Association with non-synonymous rs17849502, previously reported in EA, was detected in EA, HS and AA (PEA = 1.01 × 10−54, PHS = 3.68 × 10−10, PAA = 0.03); synonymous rs17849501 was similarly significant. These SNPs were monomorphic in KR. Novel associations were detected with coding variants at rs35937854 in AA (PAA = 1.49 × 10−9), and rs13306575 in HS and KR (PHS = 7.04 × 10−7, PKR = 3.30 × 10−3). In KR, a 3-SNP haplotype was significantly associated (P = 4.20 × 10−7), implying that SLE predisposing variants were tagged. Significant SNP–SNP interaction (P = 0.02) was detected between rs13306575 and rs17849502 in HS, and a dramatically increased risk (OR = 6.55) with a risk allele at each locus. Molecular modeling predicts that these non-synonymous mutations could disrupt NADPHO complex assembly. The risk allele of rs17849501, located in a conserved transcriptional regulatory region, increased reporter gene activity, suggesting in vivo enhancer function. Our results not only establish allelic heterogeneity within NCF2 associated with SLE, but also emphasize the utility of multi-ethnic cohorts to identify predisposing variants explaining additional phenotypic variance (‘missing heritability’) of complex diseases like SLE.
PMCID: PMC3929085  PMID: 24163247
2.  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
3.  Trans-Ancestral Studies Fine Map the SLE-Susceptibility Locus TNFSF4 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003554.
We previously established an 80 kb haplotype upstream of TNFSF4 as a susceptibility locus in the autoimmune disease SLE. SLE-associated alleles at this locus are associated with inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and ischaemic stroke. In Europeans, the TNFSF4 causal variants have remained elusive due to strong linkage disequilibrium exhibited by alleles spanning the region. Using a trans-ancestral approach to fine-map the locus, utilising 17,900 SLE and control subjects including Amerindian/Hispanics (1348 cases, 717 controls), African-Americans (AA) (1529, 2048) and better powered cohorts of Europeans and East Asians, we find strong association of risk alleles in all ethnicities; the AA association replicates in African-American Gullah (152,122). The best evidence of association comes from two adjacent markers: rs2205960-T (P = 1.71×10−34, OR = 1.43[1.26–1.60]) and rs1234317-T (P = 1.16×10−28, OR = 1.38[1.24–1.54]). Inference of fine-scale recombination rates for all populations tested finds the 80 kb risk and non-risk haplotypes in all except African-Americans. In this population the decay of recombination equates to an 11 kb risk haplotype, anchored in the 5′ region proximal to TNFSF4 and tagged by rs2205960-T after 1000 Genomes phase 1 (v3) imputation. Conditional regression analyses delineate the 5′ risk signal to rs2205960-T and the independent non-risk signal to rs1234314-C. Our case-only and SLE-control cohorts demonstrate robust association of rs2205960-T with autoantibody production. The rs2205960-T is predicted to form part of a decameric motif which binds NF-κBp65 with increased affinity compared to rs2205960-G. ChIP-seq data also indicate NF-κB interaction with the DNA sequence at this position in LCL cells. Our research suggests association of rs2205960-T with SLE across multiple groups and an independent non-risk signal at rs1234314-C. rs2205960-T is associated with autoantibody production and lymphopenia. Our data confirm a global signal at TNFSF4 and a role for the expressed product at multiple stages of lymphocyte dysregulation during SLE pathogenesis. We confirm the validity of trans-ancestral mapping in a complex trait.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex disease in which the body's immune cells cause inflammation in one or more systems to cause the associated morbidity. Hormones, the environment and genes are all causal contributors to SLE and over the past several years the genetic component of SLE has been firmly established. Several genes which are regulators of the immune system are associated with disease risk. We have established one of these, the tumour-necrosis family superfamily member 4 (TNFSF4) gene, as a lupus susceptibility gene in Northern Europeans. A major obstacle in pinpointing the marker(s) at TNFSF4 which best explain the risk of SLE has been the strong correlation (linkage disequilibrium, LD) between adjacent markers across the TNFSF4 region in this population. To address this, we have typed polymorphisms in several populations in addition to the European groups. The mixed ancestry of these populations gives a different LD pattern than that found in Europeans, presenting a method of pinpointing the section of the TNFSF4 region which results in SLE susceptibility. The Non-European populations have allowed identification of a polymorphism likely to regulate expression of TNFSF4 to increase susceptibility to SLE.
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
4.  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
5.  Evaluation of genetic association between an ITGAM non-synonymous SNP (rs1143679) and multiple autoimmune diseases 
Autoimmunity Reviews  2011;11(4):276-280.
Many autoimmune diseases (ADs) share similar underlying pathology and have a tendency to cluster within families, supporting the involvement of shared susceptibility genes. To date, most of the genetic variants associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility also show association with others ADs. ITGAM and its associated ‘predisposing’ variant (rs1143679, Arg77His), predicted to alter the tertiary structures of the ligand-binding domain of ITGAM, may play a key role for SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study is to examine whether the ITGAM variant is also associated with other ADs. We evaluated case-control association between rs1143679 and ADs (N=18,457) including primary Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes. We also performed meta-analyses using our data in addition to available published data. Although the risk allele ‘A’ is relatively more frequent among cases for each disease, it was not significantly associated with any other ADs tested in this study. However, the meta-analysis for systemic sclerosis was associated with rs1143679 (pmeta=0.008). In summary, this study explored the role of ITGAM in general autoimmunity in seven non-lupus ADs, and only found association for systemic sclerosis when our results were combined with published results. Thus ITGAM may not be a general autoimmunity gene but this variant may be specifically associated with SLE and systemic sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3224188  PMID: 21840425
ITGAM; autoimmune diseases; genetic susceptibility
6.  Multiple Autoantibodies Display Association with Lymphopenia, Proteinuria, and Cellular Casts in a Large, Ethnically Diverse SLE Patient Cohort 
Autoimmune Diseases  2012;2012:819634.
Purpose. This study evaluates high-throughput autoantibody screening and determines associated systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) clinical features in a large lupus cohort. Methods. Clinical and demographic information, along with serum samples, were obtained from each SLE study participant after appropriate informed consent. Serum samples were screened for 10 distinct SLE autoantibody specificities and examined for association with SLE ACR criteria and subcriteria using conditional logistic regression analysis. Results. In European-American SLE patients, autoantibodies against 52 kD Ro and RNP 68 are independently enriched in patients with lymphopenia, anti-La, and anti-ribosomal P are increased in patients with malar rash, and anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm are enriched in patients with proteinuria. In African-American SLE patients, cellular casts associate with autoantibodies against dsDNA, Sm, and Sm/nRNP. Conclusion. Using a high-throughput, bead-based method of autoantibody detection, anti-dsDNA is significantly enriched in patienets with SLE ACR renal criteria as has been previously described. However, lymphopenia is associated with several distinct autoantibody specificities. These findings offer meaningful information to allow clinicians and clinical investigators to understand which autoantibodies correlate with select SLE clinical manifestations across common racial groups using this novel methodology which is expanding in clinical use.
PMCID: PMC3439936  PMID: 22988489
7.  Fine mapping and trans-ethnic genotyping establish IL2/IL21 genetic association with lupus and localize this genetic effect to IL21 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(6):1689-1697.
Genetic association of the IL2/IL21 region at 4q27 has been previously reported in lupus and a number of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Herein, using a very large cohort of lupus patients and controls, we localize this genetic effect to the IL21 gene.
We genotyped 45 tag SNPs across the IL2/IL21 locus in two large independent lupus sample sets. We studied a European-derived set consisting of 4,248 lupus patients and 3,818 healthy controls, and an African-American set of 1,569 patients and 1,893 healthy controls. Imputation in 3,004 WTCCC additional control individuals was also performed. Genetic association between the genotyped markers was determined, and pair-wise conditional analysis was performed to localize the independent genetic effect in the IL2/IL21 locus in lupus.
We established and confirmed the genetic association between IL2/IL21 and lupus. Using conditional analysis and trans-ethnic mapping, we localized the genetic effect in this locus to two SNPs in high linkage disequilibrium; rs907715 located within IL21 (OR=1.16 (1.10–1.22), P= 2.17 ×10−8), and rs6835457 located in the 3’-UTR flanking region of IL21 (OR= 1.11 (1.05–1.17), P= 9.35×10−5).
We have established the genetic association between lupus and IL2/IL21 with a genome-wide level of significance. Further, we localized this genetic association within the IL2/IL21 linkage disequilibrium block to IL21. If other autoimmune IL2/IL21 genetic associations are similarly localized, then the IL21 risk alleles would be predicted to operate in a fundamental mechanism that influences the course of a number of autoimmune disease processes.
PMCID: PMC3106139  PMID: 21425124
8.  A polymorphism within interleukin-21 receptor (IL21R) confers risk for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(8):2402-2407.
Interleukin (IL) 21 is a member of the type I cytokine superfamily that exerts a variety of effects on the immune system including B cell activation, plasma cell differentiation, and immunoglobulin production. The expression of IL21R is reduced in B cells from lupus patients, while IL21 serum levels are increased in both lupus patients and some lupus-murine models. We recently reported that polymorphisms within the IL21 gene are associated with increased susceptibility to lupus. Herein, we examined the genetic association between SNPs within IL21R and lupus.
We genotyped 17 SNPs in the IL21R gene in two large cohorts of lupus patients and ethnically-matched healthy controls. Genotyping was performed with the Illumina BeadStation 500GX instrument using Illumina Infinum II genotyping assays.
We identified and confirmed the association between rs3093301 within the IL21R gene and lupus in two independent European-derived and Hispanic cohorts (meta analysis odds ratio= 1.16, 95% CI= 1.08-1.25, meta analysis p=1.0×10-4).
We identified IL21R as a novel susceptibility gene for lupus.
PMCID: PMC2782592  PMID: 19644854
9.  ITGAM coding variant (rs1143679) influences the risk of renal disease, discoid rash, and immunologic manifestations in lupus patients with European ancestry 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(7):1329-1332.
We hypothesized that the coding variant (R77H), rs1143679, within ITGAM could predict specific clinical manifestations associated with lupus.
To assess genetic association, 2366 lupus cases and 2931 unaffected controls with European ancestry were analyzed. Lupus patients were coded by the presence or absence of individual ACR criteria. Logistic regression and Pearson chi-square tests were used to assess statistical significance.
First, for overall case-control analysis, we detected highly significant (p=2.22×10−21, OR=1.73) association. Second, using case-only analysis we detected significant association with renal criteria (p=0.0003), discoid rash (p=0.02), and immunologic criteria (p=0.04). Third, we compared them with healthy controls, the association became stronger for renal (p=4.69×10−22, OR=2.15), discoid (p=1.77×10−14, OR=2.03), and immunologic (p=3.49×10−22, OR = 1.86) criteria. Risk allele frequency increased from 10.6% (controls) to 17.0% (lupus), 20.4% (renal), 18.1% (immunologic), and 19.5% (discoid).
These results demonstrated a strong association between the risk allele (A) at rs1143679 and renal disease, discoid rash, and immunological manifestations of lupus.
PMCID: PMC2891778  PMID: 19939855
10.  High density genotyping of STAT4 gene reveals multiple haplotypic associations with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in different racial groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1085-1095.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2776081  PMID: 19333953
11.  Evaluation of imputation-based association in and around the integrin-α-M (ITGAM) gene and replication of robust association between a non-synonymous functional variant within ITGAM and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(6):1171-1180.
We recently identified a novel non-synonymous variant, rs1143679, at exon 3 of the ITGAM gene associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility in European-Americans (EAs) and African-Americans. Using genome-wide association approach, three other studies also independently reported an association between SLE susceptibility and ITGAM or ITGAM-ITGAX region. The primary objectives of this study are to assess whether single or multiple causal variants from the same gene or any nearby gene(s) are involved in SLE susceptibility and to confirm a robust ITGAM association across nine independent data sets (n = 8211). First, we confirmed our previously reported association of rs1143679 (risk allele ‘A’) with SLE in EAs (P = 1.0 × 10−8) and Hispanic-Americans (P = 2.9 × 10−5). Secondly, using a comprehensive imputation-based association test, we found that ITGAM is one of the major non-human leukocyte antigen susceptibility genes for SLE, and the strongest association for EA is the same coding variant rs1143679 (log10Bayes factor=20, P = 6.17 × 10−24). Thirdly, we determined the robustness of rs1143679 association with SLE across three additional case–control samples, including UK (P = 6.2 × 10−8), Colombian (P = 3.6 × 10−7), Mexican (P = 0.002), as well as two independent sets of trios from UK (PTDT = 1.4 × 10−5) and Mexico (PTDT = 0.015). A meta-analysis combing all independent data sets greatly reinforces the association (Pmeta = 7.1 × 10−50, odds ratio = 1.83, 95% confidence interval = 1.69–1.98, n = 10 046). However, this ITGAM association was not observed in the Korean or Japanese samples, in which rs1143679 is monomorphic for the non-risk allele (G). Taken together along with our earlier findings, these results demonstrate that the coding variant, rs1143679, best explains the ITGAM-SLE association, especially in European- and African-derived populations, but not in Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC2649018  PMID: 19129174
12.  Osteopontin and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Association: A Probable Gene-Gender Interaction 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1757.
Osteopontin (SPP1) is an important bone matrix mediator found to have key roles in inflammation and immunity. SPP1 genetic polymorphisms and increased osteopontin protein levels have been reported to be associated with SLE in small patient collections. The present study evaluates association between SPP1 polymorphisms and SLE in a large cohort of 1141 unrelated SLE patients [707 European-American (EA) and 434 African-American (AA)], and 2009 unrelated controls (1309 EA and 700 AA). Population-based case-control association analyses were performed. To control for potential population stratification, admixture adjusted logistic regression, genomic control (GC), structured association (STRAT), and principal components analysis (PCA) were applied. Combined analysis of 2 ethnic groups, showed the minor allele of 2 SNPs (rs1126616T and rs9138C) significantly associated with higher risk of SLE in males (P = 0.0005, OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.28–2.33), but not in females. Indeed, significant gene-gender interactions in the 2 SNPs, rs1126772 and rs9138, were detected (P = 0.001 and P = 0.0006, respectively). Further, haplotype analysis identified rs1126616T-rs1126772A-rs9138C which demonstrated significant association with SLE in general (P = 0.02, OR = 1.30, 95%CI 1.08–1.57), especially in males (P = 0.0003, OR = 2.42, 95%CI 1.51–3.89). Subgroup analysis with single SNPs and haplotypes also identified a similar pattern of gender-specific association in AA and EA. GC, STRAT, and PCA results within each group showed consistent associations. Our data suggest SPP1 is associated with SLE, and this association is especially stronger in males. To our knowledge, this report serves as the first association of a specific autosomal gene with human male lupus.
PMCID: PMC2258418  PMID: 18335026
13.  Common Variants within MECP2 Confer Risk of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1727.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a predominantly female autoimmune disease that affects multiple organ systems. Herein, we report on an X-chromosome gene association with SLE. Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) is located on chromosome Xq28 and encodes for a protein that plays a critical role in epigenetic transcriptional regulation of methylation-sensitive genes. Utilizing a candidate gene association approach, we genotyped 21 SNPs within and around MECP2 in SLE patients and controls. We identify and replicate association between SLE and the genomic element containing MECP2 in two independent SLE cohorts from two ethnically divergent populations. These findings are potentially related to the overexpression of methylation-sensitive genes in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2253825  PMID: 18320046

Results 1-13 (13)