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J Rheumatol. 2003 Feb;30(2):276-82.

Glutathione S-transferase M null homozygosity and risk of systemic lupus erythematosus associated with sun exposure: a possible gene-environment interaction for autoimmunity.

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Center for Blood Research, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Multiple genetic factors modulate predisposition to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The glutathione S-transferase (GST) genes GSTM1, GSTT1, and GSTP1 catalyze metabolic pathways for the excretion of reactive oxygen species that may be generated by cellular oxidative stress induced by ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. We hypothesized that risk of SLE associated with occupational sun exposure is modulated by GSTM1, GSTT1, and GSTP1 genotypes.


DNA samples and occupational history were collected from 243 cases and 298 controls in the Carolina Lupus Study, a population based case-control study of patients with recently diagnosed SLE.


There was no independent association between SLE and presence of the homozygous null GSTM1 or GSTT1 genotype, the homozygous Val/Val or heterozygous Val/Ile GSTP1 genotype, or occupational sunlight exposure. The prevalence of Ro autoantibodies was significantly increased among Caucasians with the GSTM1 null genotype (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.0, 6.8), but was somewhat weaker among African-Americans (OR 1.5, 95% CI 0.7, 3.5). In the combined analysis of occupational sunlight exposure and GSTM1 genotype, the effect of sun exposure among Caucasians varied depending on GSTM1 genotype. There was a 3-fold increased risk (OR 3.1, 95% CI 0.9, 10.8) of SLE associated with 24 or more months' occupational sun exposure among Caucasians with the GSTM1 null genotype, but sun exposure was not associated with risk among GSTM1 positive Caucasians (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.3, 1.5). The interaction was statistically significant (p = 0.028).


Our results suggest that GSTM1 homozygous null genotype may modify the effect of occupational sun exposure on the risk of SLE in caucasians.

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