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1.  Genetic associations of leptin-related polymorphisms with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2015;161(2):157-162.
Leptin is abnormally elevated in the plasma of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), where it is thought to promote and/or sustain pro-inflammatory responses. Whether this association could reflect an increased genetic susceptibility to develop SLE is not known, and studies of genetic associations with leptin-related polymorphisms in SLE patients have been so far inconclusive. Here we genotyped DNA samples from 15,706 SLE patients and healthy matched controls from four different ancestral groups, to correlate polymorphisms of genes of the leptin pathway to risk for SLE. It was found that although several SNPs showed weak associations, those associations did not remain significant after correction for multiple testing. These data do not support associations between defined leptin-related polymorphisms and increased susceptibility to develop SLE.
PMCID: PMC4658308  PMID: 26385092
systemic lupus erythematosus; leptin pathway; gene polymorphisms
The serologic hallmark of primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is IgG antibodies specific for Ro (SSA) and La (SSB). Molecular characteristics of glandular-derived B cells at the site of pSS inflammation have been described; however, parallels between glandular antibody-secreting cells (ASC) and serologic antibody specificities have not been evaluated. We utilized recombinant monoclonal antibody (hmAb) technology to study salivary gland-(SG) derived ASC specificities, evaluating their molecular characteristics and identified IgG antibody specificity.
hmAbs were generated from glandular IgG ASC. Heavy and light chain usage and immunoglobulin subclass were analyzed by sequencing. ELISA, indirect immunofluorescence, enzyme immunoassay and 35S immunoprecipitation analysis were used to determine antibody specificity.
Evaluation of single ASCs from SG biopsies of patients with primary SS or with SS and overlapping SLE revealed significant concordance between serum autoantibody and glandular ASC specificities. Glandular-derived ASC heavy and light chains were extensively somatically hypermutated, indicative of antigen-driven responses. Specifically, we produced the first fully human monoclonal autoantibodies derived from salivary glands in this study.
Salivary glands in SS patients are a site for antibody production, which extend beyond the canonical Ro and/or La SS specificities. Furthermore, we demonstrate that glandular antibody production strongly reflects the serological humoral response in the two patients studied herein.
PMCID: PMC4245382  PMID: 25199908
3.  Lupus risk variants in the PXK locus alter B-cell receptor internalization 
Frontiers in Genetics  2015;5:450.
Genome wide association studies have identified variants in PXK that confer risk for humoral autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), rheumatoid arthritis and more recently systemic sclerosis. While PXK is involved in trafficking of epidermal growth factor Receptor (EGFR) in COS-7 cells, mechanisms linking PXK to lupus pathophysiology have remained undefined. In an effort to uncover the mechanism at this locus that increases lupus-risk, we undertook a fine-mapping analysis in a large multi-ancestral study of lupus patients and controls. We define a large (257kb) common haplotype marking a single causal variant that confers lupus risk detected only in European ancestral populations and spans the promoter through the 3′ UTR of PXK. The strongest association was found at rs6445972 with P < 4.62 × 10−10, OR 0.81 (0.75–0.86). Using stepwise logistic regression analysis, we demonstrate that one signal drives the genetic association in the region. Bayesian analysis confirms our results, identifying a 95% credible set consisting of 172 variants spanning 202 kb. Functionally, we found that PXK operates on the B-cell antigen receptor (BCR); we confirmed that PXK influenced the rate of BCR internalization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that individuals carrying the risk haplotype exhibited a decreased rate of BCR internalization, a process known to impact B cell survival and cell fate. Taken together, these data define a new candidate mechanism for the genetic association of variants around PXK with lupus risk and highlight the regulation of intracellular trafficking as a genetically regulated pathway mediating human autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4288052  PMID: 25620976
lupus; PXK; fine-mapping; B cells; BCR
4.  Prolidase deficiency breaks tolerance to lupus-associated antigens 
Prolidase deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disease in which one of the last steps of collagen metabolism, cleavage of proline-containing dipeptides, is impaired. Only about 93 patients have been reported with about 10% also having systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We studied a large extended Amish pedigree with four prolidase deficiency patients and three heterozygous individuals for lupus-associated autoimmunity. Eight unaffected Amish children served as normal controls. Prolidase genetics and enzyme activity were confirmed. Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) were determined using indirect immunofluorescence and antibodies against extractable nuclear antigens were determined by various methods, including double immunodiffusion, immunoprecipitation and multiplex bead assay. Serum C1q levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Two of the four homozygous prolidase deficiency subjects had a positive ANA. One had anti-double-stranded DNA, while another had precipitating anti-Ro. By the simultaneous microbead assay, three of the four had anti-Sm and anti-chromatin. One of the three heterozygous subjects had a positive ANA and immunoprecipitation of a 75 000 molecular weight protein. The unaffected controls had normal prolidase activity and were negative for autoantibodies.
Prolidase deficiency may be associated with the loss of immune tolerance to lupus-associated autoantigens even without clinical SLE.
PMCID: PMC4030668  PMID: 24330273
prolidase deficiency; systemic lupus erythematosus; autoantibodies
5.  Variants at multiple loci implicated in both innate and adaptive immune responses are associated with Sjögren’s syndrome 
Nature genetics  2013;45(11):10.1038/ng.2792.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a common autoimmune disease (~0.7% of European Americans) typically presenting as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and xerostomia. In addition to strong association within the HLA region at 6p21 (Pmeta=7.65×10−114), we establish associations with IRF5-TNPO3 (Pmeta=2.73×10−19), STAT4 (Pmeta=6.80×10−15), IL12A (Pmeta =1.17×10−10), FAM167A-BLK (Pmeta=4.97×10−10), DDX6-CXCR5 (Pmeta=1.10×10−8), and TNIP1 (Pmeta=3.30×10−8). Suggestive associations with Pmeta<5×10−5 were observed with 29 regions including TNFAIP3, PTTG1, PRDM1, DGKQ, FCGR2A, IRAK1BP1, ITSN2, and PHIP amongst others. These results highlight the importance of genes involved in both innate and adaptive immunity in Sjögren’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3867192  PMID: 24097067
6.  Vitamin D Deficiency in a Multiethnic Healthy Control Cohort and Altered Immune Response in Vitamin D Deficient European-American Healthy Controls 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94500.
In recent years, vitamin D has been shown to possess a wide range of immunomodulatory effects. Although there is extensive amount of research on vitamin D, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency or the mechanism by which vitamin D regulates the human immune system. This study examined the prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency and the relationship between vitamin D and the immune system in healthy individuals.
Healthy individuals (n = 774) comprised of European-Americans (EA, n = 470), African–Americans (AA, n = 125), and Native Americans (NA, n = 179) were screened for 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels by ELISA. To identify the most noticeable effects of vitamin D on the immune system, 20 EA individuals with severely deficient (<11.3 ng/mL) and sufficient (>24.8 ng/mL) vitamin D levels were matched and selected for further analysis. Serum cytokine level measurement, immune cell phenotyping, and phosphoflow cytometry were performed.
Vitamin D sufficiency was observed in 37.5% of the study cohort. By multivariate analysis, AA, NA, and females with a high body mass index (BMI, >30) demonstrate higher rates of vitamin D deficiency (p<0.05). Individuals with vitamin D deficiency had significantly higher levels of serum GM-CSF (p = 0.04), decreased circulating activated CD4+ (p = 0.04) and CD8+ T (p = 0.04) cell frequencies than individuals with sufficient vitamin D levels.
A large portion of healthy individuals have vitamin D deficiency. These individuals have altered T and B cell responses, indicating that the absence of sufficient vitamin D levels could result in undesirable cellular and molecular alterations ultimately contributing to immune dysregulation.
PMCID: PMC3984168  PMID: 24727903
7.  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
8.  Comparison of autoantibody specificities between traditional and bead-based assays in a large, diverse collection of SLE patients and family members 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3677-3686.
The replacement of standard immunofluorescence anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) methods with bead-based assays is a new clinical option. A large, multi-racial cohort of SLE patients, blood relatives and unaffected control individuals was evaluated for familial aggregation and subset clustering of autoantibodies by high-throughput serum screening technology and traditional methods.
Serum samples (1,540 SLE patients, 1,127 unaffected relatives, and 906 healthy, population-based controls) were analyzed for SLE autoantibodies using a bead-based assay, immunofluorescence, and immunodiffusion. Autoantibody prevalence, disease sensitivity, clustering, and association with standard immunodiffusion results were evaluated.
ANA frequency in SLE patient sera were 89%, 73%, and 67% by BioPlex 2200 and 94%, 84%, and 86% by immunofluorescence in African-American, Hispanic, and European-American patients respectively. 60kD Ro, La, Sm, nRNP A, and ribosomal P prevalence were compared across assays, with sensitivities ranging from 0.92 to 0.83 and specificities ranging from 0.90 to 0.79. Cluster autoantibody analysis showed association of three subsets: 1) 60kD Ro, 52kD Ro and La, 2) spliceosomal proteins, and 3) dsDNA, chromatin, and ribosomal P. Familial aggregation of Sm/RNP, ribosomal P, and 60kD Ro in SLE patient sibling pairs was observed (p ≤ 0.004). Simplex pedigree patients had a greater prevalence for dsDNA (p=0.0003) and chromatin (p=0.005) autoantibodies than multiplex patients.
ANA frequencies detected by a bead-based assay are lower in European-American SLE patients compared to immunofluorescence. These assays have strong positive predictive values across racial groups, provide useful information for clinical care, and provide unique insights to familial aggregation and autoantibody clustering.
PMCID: PMC3490432  PMID: 23112091
systemic lupus erythematosus; autoantibodies; ancestry
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Evaluation of TRAF6 in a Large Multi-Ancestral Lupus Cohort 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1960-1969.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease with significant immune system aberrations resulting from complex heritable genetics as well as environmental factors. TRAF6 is a candidate gene for SLE, which has a major role in several signaling pathways that are important for immunity and organ development.
Fifteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), across TRAF6 were evaluated in 7,490 SLE and 6,780 control subjects from different ancestries. Population-based case-control association analyses and meta-analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Evidence of associations in multiple SNPs was detected. The best overall p values were obtained for SNPs rs5030437 and rs4755453 (p=7.85×10−5 and p=4.73×10−5, respectively) without significant heterogeneity among populations (p=0.67 and p=0.50 in Q-statistic). In addition, rs540386 previously reported to be associated with RA was found to be in LD with these two SNPs (r2= 0.95) and demonstrated evidence of association with SLE in the same direction (meta-analysis p=9.15×10−4, OR=0.89, 95%CI=0.83–0.95). Thrombocytopenia improved the overall results in different populations (meta-analysis p=1.99×10−6, OR=0.57, 95%CI=0.45–0.72, for rs5030470). Finally evidence of family based association in 34 African-American pedigrees with the presence of thrombocytopenia were detected in one available SNP rs5030437 with Z score magnitude of 2.28 (p=0.02) under a dominant model.
Our data indicate the presence of association of TRAF6 with SLE in agreement with the previous report of association with RA. These data provide further support for the involvement of TRAF6 in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3380425  PMID: 22231568
TRAF6; polymorphism; systemic lupus erythematosus
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
17.  Association of PPP2CA polymorphisms with SLE susceptibility in multiple ethnic groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(9):2755-2763.
T cells from patients with SLE express increased amounts of PP2Ac which contribute to decreased production of IL-2. Because IL-2 is important in the regulation of several aspects of the immune response, it has been proposed that PP2Ac contributes to the expression of SLE. This study was designed to determine whether genetic variants of PPP2AC are linked to the expression of SLE and specific clinical manifestations and account for the increased expression of PP2Ac.
We conducted a trans-ethnic study consisting of 8,695 SLE cases and 7,308 controls from four different ancestries. Eighteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the PPP2CA were genotyped using an Illumina custom array. PPP2CA expression in SLE and control T cells was analyzed by real-time PCR.
A 32-kb haplotype comprised of multiple SNPs of PPP2CA showed significant association with SLE in Hispanic Americans (HA), European Americans (EA) and Asians but not in African-Americans (AA). Conditional analyses revealed that SNP rs7704116 in intron 1 showed consistently strong association with SLE across Asian, EA and HA populations (pmeta=3.8×10−7, OR=1.3[1.14–1.31]). In EA, the largest ethnic dataset, the risk A allele of rs7704116 was associated with the presence of renal disease, anti-dsDNA and anti-RNP antibodies. PPP2CA expression was approximately 2-fold higher in SLE patients carrying the rs7704116 AG genotype than those carrying GG genotype (p = 0.008).
Our data provide the first evidence for an association between PPP2CA polymorphisms and elevated PP2Ac transcript levels in T cells, which implicates a new molecular pathway for SLE susceptibility in EA, HA and Asians.
PMCID: PMC3163110  PMID: 21590681
18.  Role of MYH9 and APOL1 in African and non-African populations with Lupus Nephritis 
Genes and Immunity  2011;13(3):232-238.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and organ damage. Lupus nephritis (LN) is one of the most severe manifestations of SLE. Multiple studies reported associations between renal diseases and variants in the non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9 (MYH9) and the neighboring apolipoprotein L 1 (APOL1) genes. We evaluated 167 variants spanning MYH9 for association with LN in a multiethnic sample. The two previously identified risk variants in APOL1 were also tested for association with LN in European-Americans (EAs) (N = 579) and African-Americans (AAs) (N = 407). Multiple peaks of association exceeding a Bonferroni corrected p-value of p < 2.03 × 10−3 were observed between LN and MYH9 in EAs (N=4620), with the most pronounced association at rs2157257 (p = 4.7 × 10−4; odds ratio [OR]=1.205). A modest effect with MYH9 was also detected in Gullah (rs8136069, p = 0.0019, OR = 2.304). No association between LN and MYH9 was found in AAs, Asians, Amerindians or Hispanics. This study provides the first investigation of MYH9 in LN in non-Africans and of APOL1 in LN in any population and presents novel insight into the potential role of MYH9 in LN in EAs.
PMCID: PMC3330160  PMID: 22189356
MYH9; APOL1; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; multiethnic association study
19.  The Lupus Family Registry and Repository 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2010;50(1):47-59.
The Lupus Family Registry and Repository (LFRR) was established with the goal of assembling and distributing materials and data from families with one or more living members diagnosed with SLE, in order to address SLE genetics. In the present article, we describe the problems and solutions of the registry design and biometric data gathering; the protocols implemented to guarantee data quality and protection of participant privacy and consent; and the establishment of a local and international network of collaborators. At the same time, we illustrate how the LFRR has enabled progress in lupus genetics research, answering old scientific questions while laying out new challenges in the elucidation of the biologic mechanisms that underlie disease pathogenesis. Trained staff ascertain SLE cases, unaffected family members and population-based controls, proceeding in compliance with the relevant laws and standards; participant consent and privacy are central to the LFRR’s effort. Data, DNA, serum, plasma, peripheral blood and transformed B-cell lines are collected and stored, and subject to strict quality control and safety measures. Coded data and materials derived from the registry are available for approved scientific users. The LFRR has contributed to the discovery of most of the 37 genetic associations now known to contribute to lupus through 104 publications. The LFRR contains 2618 lupus cases from 1954 pedigrees that are being studied by 76 approved users and their collaborators. The registry includes difficult to obtain populations, such as multiplex pedigrees, minority patients and affected males, and constitutes the largest collection of lupus pedigrees in the world. The LFRR is a useful resource for the discovery and characterization of genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3307518  PMID: 20864496
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Registry; Repository; Autoimmune diseases; Genetics; Heritability; Genome-wide association studies; Linkage analysis; Minorities; Women
20.  Male only Systemic Lupus 
The Journal of rheumatology  2010;37(7):1480-1487.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is more common among women than men with a ratio of about 10 to 1. We undertook this study to describe familial male SLE within a large cohort of familial SLE. SLE families (two or more patients) were obtained from the Lupus Multiplex Registry and Repository. Genomic DNA and blood samples were obtained using standard methods. Autoantibodies were determined by multiple methods. Medical records were abstracted for SLE clinical data. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was performed with X and Y centromere specific probes, and a probe specific for the toll-like receptor 7 gene on the X chromosome. Among 523 SLE families, we found five families in which all the SLE patients were male. FISH found no yaa gene equivalent in these families. SLE-unaffected primary female relatives from the five families with only-male SLE patients had a statistically increased rate of positive ANA compared to SLE-unaffected female relatives in other families. White men with SLE were 5 times more likely to have an offspring with SLE than were White women with SLE but there was no difference in this likelihood among Black men. These data suggest genetic susceptibility factors that act only in men.
PMCID: PMC2978923  PMID: 20472921
Systemic lupus erythematosus; men; autoantibodies; genetics
21.  Evaluation of the TREX1 gene in a large multi-ancestral lupus cohort 
Genes and immunity  2011;12(4):270-279.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disorder with a complex pathogenesis in which genetic, hormonal and environmental factors play a role. Rare mutations in the TREX1 gene, the major mammalian 3′-5′ exonuclease, have been reported in sporadic SLE cases. Some of these mutations have also been identified in a rare pediatric neurologic condition featuring an inflammatory encephalopathy known as Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS). We sought to investigate the frequency of these mutations in a large multi-ancestral cohort of SLE cases and controls.
Forty single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including both common and rare variants, across the TREX1 gene were evaluated in ∼8370 patients with SLE and ∼7490 control subjects. Stringent quality control procedures were applied and principal components and admixture proportions were calculated to identify outliers for removal from analysis. Population-based case-control association analyses were performed. P values, false discovery rate q values, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
The estimated frequency of TREX1 mutations in our lupus cohort was 0.5%. Five heterozygous mutations were detected at the Y305C polymorphism in European lupus cases but none were observed in European controls. Five African cases incurred heterozygous mutations at the E266G polymorphism and, again, none were observed in the African controls. A rare homozygous R114H mutation was identified in one Asian SLE patient whereas all genotypes at this mutation in previous reports for SLE were heterozygous. Analysis of common TREX1 SNPs (MAF >10%) revealed a relatively common risk haplotype in European SLE patients with neurologic manifestations, especially seizures, with a frequency of 58% in lupus cases compared to 45% in normal controls (p=0.0008, OR=1.73, 95% CI=1.25-2.39). Finally, the presence or absence of specific autoantibodies in certain populations produced significant genetic associations. For example, a strong association with anti-nRNP was observed in the European cohort at a coding synonymous variant rs56203834 (p=2.99E-13, OR=5.2, 95% CI=3.18-8.56).
Our data confirm and expand previous reports and provide additional support for the involvement of TREX1 in lupus pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3107387  PMID: 21270825
22.  Association Between a Functional Variant Downstream of TNFAIP3 and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):253-258.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, OMIM 152700) is an autoimmune disease characterized by self-reactive antibodies resulting in systemic inflammation and organ failure. TNFAIP3, encoding the ubiquitin-modifying enzyme A20, is an established susceptibility locus for SLE. By fine mapping and genomic resequencing in ethnically diverse populations we fully characterized the TNFAIP3 risk haplotype and isolated a novel TT>A polymorphic dinucleotide associated with SLE in subjects of European (P = 1.58 × 10−8; odds ratio (OR) = 1.70) and Korean (P = 8.33 × 10−10; OR = 2.54) ancestry. This variant, located in a region of high conservation and regulatory potential, bound a nuclear protein complex comprised of NF-κB subunits with reduced avidity. Furthermore, compared with the non-risk haplotype, the haplotype carrying this variant resulted in reduced TNFAIP3 mRNA and A20 protein expression. These results establish this TT>A variant as the most likely functional polymorphism responsible for the association between TNFAIP3 and SLE.
PMCID: PMC3103780  PMID: 21336280
23.  Association of Genetic Variants in Complement Factor H and Factor H-Related Genes with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Susceptibility 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(5):e1002079.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex polygenic autoimmune disease, is associated with increased complement activation. Variants of genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) within the chromosome 1q32 locus linked to SLE, have been associated with multiple human diseases and may contribute to dysregulated complement activation predisposing to SLE. We assessed 60 SNPs covering the CFH-CFHRs region for association with SLE in 15,864 case-control subjects derived from four ethnic groups. Significant allelic associations with SLE were detected in European Americans (EA) and African Americans (AA), which could be attributed to an intronic CFH SNP (rs6677604, in intron 11, Pmeta = 6.6×10−8, OR = 1.18) and an intergenic SNP between CFHR1 and CFHR4 (rs16840639, Pmeta = 2.9×10−7, OR = 1.17) rather than to previously identified disease-associated CFH exonic SNPs, including I62V, Y402H, A474A, and D936E. In addition, allelic association of rs6677604 with SLE was subsequently confirmed in Asians (AS). Haplotype analysis revealed that the underlying causal variant, tagged by rs6677604 and rs16840639, was localized to a ∼146 kb block extending from intron 9 of CFH to downstream of CFHR1. Within this block, the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 (CFHR3-1Δ), a likely causal variant measured using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, was tagged by rs6677604 in EA and AS and rs16840639 in AA, respectively. Deduced from genotypic associations of tag SNPs in EA, AA, and AS, homozygous deletion of CFHR3-1Δ (Pmeta = 3.2×10−7, OR = 1.47) conferred a higher risk of SLE than heterozygous deletion (Pmeta = 3.5×10−4, OR = 1.14). These results suggested that the CFHR3-1Δ deletion within the SLE-associated block, but not the previously described exonic SNPs of CFH, might contribute to the development of SLE in EA, AA, and AS, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease, associated with increased complement activation. Previous studies have provided evidence for the presence of SLE susceptibility gene(s) in the chromosome 1q31-32 locus. Within 1q32, genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) may contribute to the development of SLE, because genetic variants of these genes impair complement regulation and predispose to various human diseases. In this study, we tested association of genetic variants in the region containing CFH and CFHRs with SLE. We identified genetic variants predisposing to SLE in European American, African American, and Asian populations, which might be attributed to the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 genes but not previously identified disease-associated exonic variants of CFH. This study provides the first evidence for consistent association between CFH/CFHRs and SLE across multi-ancestral SLE datasets, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3102741  PMID: 21637784
24.  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
25.  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

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