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Ann Rheum Dis. 2008 Mar;67(3):409-13. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

Evidence for an influence of chemokine ligand 3-like 1 (CCL3L1) gene copy number on susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.



There is increasing evidence that gene copy-number variation influences phenotypic variation. Chemokine ligand 3-like 1 (CCL3L1) is encoded by a variable copy-number gene, and binds to several pro-inflammatory cytokine receptors, including chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5). Considering lymphocyte recruitment by beta-chemokines is a feature of autoimmunity, and that the CCR5Delta32 variant is associated with protection to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we hypothesised that CCL3L1 copy-number influences susceptibility to RA and type 1 diabetes (T1D).


We measured CCL3L1 copy-number in 1136 RA cases from New Zealand (NZ) and the UK, 252 NZ T1D cases and a total of 1470 controls. All subjects were ancestrally Caucasian.


A copy-number higher than 2 (the most common copy number) was a risk factor for RA in the NZ cohort (odds ratio (OR) 1.34, 95% CI 1.08-1.66, p = 0.009) but not the smaller UK RA cohort (OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.75-1.60, p = 0.643). There was evidence for association in the T1D cohort (OR 1.46, 95% CI 0.98-2.20, p = 0.064) and in the combined RA/T1D cohort (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.00-1.54, p = 0.003). Genetic interaction between CCL3L1 dosage and CCR5 genotype was found; the increased genetic risk conferred by higher CCL3L1 copy-number was ablated by a dysfunctional CCR5 (CCR5Delta32).


These data suggest that increased CCL3L1 expression may enhance inflammatory responses and increase the chance of autoimmune disease. Genetic interaction data were consistent with a biologically plausible model; CCR5Delta32 protects against RA and T1D by blocking signalling through the CCR5 pathway, mitigating the pro-inflammatory effects of excess CCL3L1.

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