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Lupus. 2010 Oct;19(12):1452-9. doi: 10.1177/0961203310370350.

What can we learn from genetic studies of systemic lupus erythematosus? Implications of genetic heterogeneity among populations in SLE.

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Department of Rheumatology, Hanyang University Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Seoul, Korea.


Recent progress in genetics has expanded the number of the genes associated with SLE to more than 20 in the past 2 years. One might assign these candidate genetic factors into several pre-existing biological pathways: (i) innate immune response including TLR/interferon signaling pathways (IRF5, STAT4, TNFAIP3, and TREX1); (ii) adaptive immune response (HLA-DR, PTPN22, PDCD1, STAT4, LYN, BLK, and BANK1) including B, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells; and (iii) immune complex clearance mechanism (FCGRs, CRP, and ITGAM). In addition, there are also several genes and loci that could not be assigned into previous known pathways (KIAA1542, PXK, XKR6, ATG5, etc), providing possible novel mechanisms in SLE. It has also been evident that there are similarities and differences in SLE susceptibility loci across ethnic groups. Here we categorize the susceptible genes into four groups. The first group is the consistently associated genes with similar risk allele frequency between multiple ethnic populations such as STAT4, TNFAIP3, BANK1, and IRAK1/MECP2. The second group is the genes that are consistently associated but show marked difference in risk allele frequency (BLK, IRF5). The third group is the genes in which different risk variants exist within a gene or genetic loci (allelic heterogeneity) such as HLA-DR, FCGRs, and IRF5. The fourth group is the genes that show consistently discrepancy between populations such as PTPN22 and possibly ITGAM, PXK, and LYN (genetic heterogeneity). The possible explanations for differences of susceptible genetic factors between populations could be different genetic backgrounds, contribution of gene-gene or gene-environment interaction, and the relation between marker and causal variants. Therefore, efforts to identify ethnic-specific genetic factors or disease causing variants should be necessary for individualized therapy for SLE in future.

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