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J Infect Dis. 2011 Aug 1;204(3):433-41. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir268.

Common SNPs/haplotypes in IL18R1 and IL18 genes are associated with variations in humoral immunity to smallpox vaccination in Caucasians and African Americans.

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  • 1Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.



Identifying genetic factors that influence poxvirus immunity across races may assist in the development of better vaccines and approaches for vaccine development.


We performed an extensive candidate-gene genetic screen (across 32 cytokine and cytokine receptor genes) in a racially diverse cohort of 1056 healthy adults after a single dose of smallpox vaccine. Associations between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)/haplotypes and vaccinia virus-specific neutralizing antibodies were assessed using linear regression methodologies.


The combined analysis identified 63 associations between candidate SNPs and antibody levels after smallpox vaccination with P < .05. Thirty-one of these were within the IL18R1 and IL18 genes. Five IL18R1 SNPs, including a coding synonymous polymorphism rs1035130 (Phe251Phe) and 2 promoter SNPs (rs6710885, rs2287037), all in linkage disequilibrium, were associated with significant variations in antibody levels in both Caucasians (P ≤ .016) and African Americans (P ≤ .025). Similarly, associations with 2 intronic IL18 SNPs (rs2043055 and rs5744280) were consistent in the Caucasian (P ≤ .023) and African American samples (P ≤ .014). Haplotype analysis revealed highly significant associations between IL18R1 haplotypes and vaccinia virus-specific antibody levels (P < .001, by combined analysis) that were consistent across races.


Our study provides evidence for IL18 and IL18R1 genes as plausible genes regulating the humoral immune response to smallpox vaccine in both Caucasians and African Americans.

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