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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2010 May;30(5):291-8. doi: 10.1089/jir.2009.0060.

Interleukin 7 receptor alpha chain haplotypes vary in their influence on multiple sclerosis susceptibility and response to interferon Beta.

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Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney , Australia.


Interleukin 7 receptor alpha chain (IL-7Ralpha) has recently been confirmed as the first non-HLA gene definitively associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). The protective haplotype (haplotype 2) has reduced splicing of exon 6, reduced production of soluble IL-7Ralpha, and therefore reduced interference with receptor binding to its ligands, IL-7, and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). From a meta-analysis on 3,376 MS patients, 4,143 controls, and 1,333 trio families, although the most significant association is still seen with haplotype 2 (P = 7 x 10(-10)), the highest odds ratio is seen for haplotype 4 homozygotes (OR = 1.35, P = 0.001). The IL-7Ralpha proximal promoter contains response elements to interferon beta (IFN-beta), the most commonly used immunomodulatory drug in MS. We demonstrate that IL-7Ralpha is up-regulated in response to IFN-beta in vitro for haplotypes 1 and 2, but not 4. This difference can be seen in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from heterozygotes (P < 0.002, n = 10) and homozygotes (trend only), and in CD4 + CD45RO + and CD4 + CD45RA + cells. In PBMCs, IL-7Ralpha cell surface protein (CD127) is lower in haplotype 4 carriers than non-carriers after incubation with IFN-beta (P < 0.003, n = 20). Response to IFN-beta includes viral protection and immune modulation, processes that could be pathogenically significant in MS. The haplotype-dependent variation in the regulation of IL-7Ralpha by IFN-beta may contribute to the genetic association of IL-7Ralpha with MS.

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