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Clin Dermatol. 2007 May-Jun;25(3):267-75.

Gene-environment interactions in sarcoidosis: challenge and opportunity.

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Department of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195 USA. <>


Susceptibility to most human diseases is polygenic, with complex interactions between functional polymorphisms of single genes governing disease incidence, phenotype, or both. In this context, the contribution of any discrete gene is generally modest for a single individual, but may confer substantial attributable risk on a population level. Environmental exposure can modify the effects of a polymorphism, either by providing a necessary substrate for development of human disease or because the effects of a given exposure modulate the effects of the gene. In several diseases, genetic polymorphisms have been shown to be context dependent, ie, the effects of a genetic variant are realized only in the setting of a relevant exposure. Because sarcoidosis susceptibility is dependent on both genetic and environmental modifiers, the study of gene-environment interactions may yield important pathogenetic information and will likely be crucial for uncovering the range of genetic susceptibility loci. The complexity of these relationships implies, however, that investigations of gene-environment interactions will require the study of large cohorts with carefully defined exposures and similar clinical phenotypes. A general principle is that the study of gene-environment interactions requires a sample size at least severalfold greater than for either factor alone. To date, the presence of environmental modifiers has been demonstrated for one sarcoidosis susceptibility locus, HLA-DQB1, in African-American families. This article reviews general considerations obtaining for the study of gene-environment interactions in sarcoidosis. It also describes the limited current understanding of the role of environmental influences on sarcoidosis susceptibility genes.

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