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Dig Liver Dis. 2008 Sep;40(9):723-30. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2008.02.011. Epub 2008 Apr 3.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms in human Paneth cell defensin A5 may confer susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease in a New Zealand Caucasian population.

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Discipline of Nutrition, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.



Human Paneth cell alpha-defensins, especially DEFA5, are involved in maintaining homeostasis of the human microbial microflora. Since breakdown of normal mucosal antibacterial defence occurs in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), variants in the DEFA5 gene could be associated with IBD risk.


A cohort of 25 patients with indeterminate colitis (IC), 405 with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 385 with Crohn's disease (CD), were compared with 201 control individuals from the Canterbury region in New Zealand.


A 15 kb haplotype block surrounding DEFA5 contained 35 HapMap markers which were polymorphic in Caucasians. Four markers (A-D) were selected to tag 27 of the 35 markers at r(2)>0.68, and were genotyped in DNA samples.


Minor allele frequencies for all single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were somewhat elevated in patients. Subgroup analysis showed SNP A had odds ratio 1.44 in UC patients with pancolitis (95% C.I. 1.07-1.94), SNP B odds ratio 2.37 in CD patients with onset prior to 17 years age (95% C.I. 1.12-5.03), SNP C odds ratio 1.68 in UC patients with left colonic localisation (95% C.I. 1.12-2.52), and SNP D had odds ratio 1.56 in CD patients with one or more relatives with IBD (95% C.I. 1.03-2.35). Two two-marker haplotypes and one three-marker haplotype were associated with UC (p-values 0.025-0.05).


The SNPs genotyped in our study were surrogates for common variants, and observed associations between these and IBD status are likely due to linkage disequilibrium with a functional common DEFA5 variant. Identifying such functional variants will be prioritized in subsequent work.

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