Initially thought to play a restricted role in calcium homeostasis, the pleiotropic actions of vitamin D in biology and their clinical significance are only now becoming apparent. However, the mode of action of vitamin D, through its cognate nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR), and its contribution to diverse disorders, remain poorly understood. We determined VDR binding throughout the human genome using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq). After calcitriol stimulation, we identified 2776 genomic positions occupied by the VDR and 229 genes with significant changes in expression in response to vitamin D. VDR binding sites were significantly enriched near autoimmune and cancer associated genes identified from genome-wide association (GWA) studies. Notable genes with VDR binding included IRF8, associated with MS, and PTPN2 associated with Crohns disease and T1D. Furthermore, a number of single nucleotide polymorphism associations from GWA were located directly within VDR binding intervals, for example, rs13385731 associated with SLE and rs947474 associated with T1D. We also observed significant enrichment of VDR intervals within regions of positive selection among individuals of Asian and European descent. ChIP-seq determination of transcription factor binding, in combination with GWA data, provides a powerful approach to further understanding the molecular bases of complex diseases.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility is characterized by maternal parent-of-origin effects and increased female penetrance. In 7796 individuals from 1797 MS families (affected individuals n = 2954), we further implicate epigenetic modifications within major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II haplotypes as mediating these phenomena. Affected individuals with the main MS-associated allele HLA-DRB1*15 had a higher female-to-male ratio versus those lacking it (P = 0.00023). Distorted transmission of MHC haplotypes by both parent-of-origin and gender-of-affected-offspring was most evident in the maternal HLA-DRB1*15 transmission to affected female offspring (OR = 3.31, 95% CI = 2.59-4.24) contrasting with similarity among maternal transmission to affected male offspring (OR = 2.13, 95% CI = 1.44-3.14), paternal transmissions to affected female (OR = 2.14, 95% CI = 1.64-2.78) and male (OR = 2.16, 95% CI = 1.37-3.39) offspring. Significant parent-of-origin effects were observed in affected females (maternal: P = 9.33 x 10(-42); paternal: P = 1.12 x 10(-15); comparison: P = 0.0014), but not in affected males (maternal: P = 6.70 x 10(-8); paternal: P = 2.54 x 10(-6); comparison: P = 0.95). Conditional logistic regression analysis revealed further differential risk of HLA diplotypes. Risks for HLA-DRB1*15 and likely for other HLA-DRB1 haplotypes were restricted by (i) parent-of-origin, (ii) gender-of-offspring and (iii) trans epistasis in offspring. These findings may illuminate the gender bias characterizing autoimmunity overall. They raise questions about the concept of restricted antigen presentation in autoimmunity and suggest that gender-specific epigenetic interactions may be the driving forces behind the MHC haplotypic associations. Haplotype-specific epigenetic modifications at MHC class II and their decay appear to be at the heart of MS pathogenesis and inheritance of risk, providing the focus for gene-environment interactions that determine susceptibility and resistance.
Multiple sclerosis (MS), a common central nervous system inflammatory disease, has a major heritable component. Susceptibility is associated with the MHC class II region, especially HLA-DRB5*0101-HLA-DRB1*1501-HLA-DQA1*0102-HLA-DQB1*0602 haplotypes(hereafter DR2), which dominate genetic contribution to MS risk. Marked linkage disequilibrium (LD) among these loci makes identification of a specific locus difficult. The once-leading candidate, HLA-DRB1*15, localizes to risk, neutral, and protective haplotypes. HLA-DRB1*15 and HLA-DQB1*0602, nearly always located together on a small ancestral chromosome segment, are strongly MS-associated. One intervening allele on this haplotype, viz. HLA-DQA1*0102, shows no primary MS association. Two Canadian cohorts (n = 830 and n = 438 trios) genotyped for HLA-DRB1, HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 alleles were tested for association using TDT. To evaluate epistasis involving HLA-DRB1*15, transmissions from HLA-DRB1*15-negative parents were stratified by the presence/absence of HLA-DRB1*15 in affected offspring. All 3 alleles contribute to MS susceptibility through novel epistatic interactions. HLA-DQA1*0102 increased disease risk when combined with HLA-DRB1*1501 in trans, thereby unambiguously implicating HLA-DQ in MS susceptibility. Three-locus haplotypes demonstrated that HLA-DRB1*1501 and HLA-DQB1*0602 each influence risk. Transmissions of rare morcellated DR2 haplotypes showed no interaction with HLA-DQA1*0102. Incomplete haplotypes bearing only HLA-DRB1*1501 or HLA-DQB1*0602 did not predispose to MS. Balanced reciprocal transmission distortion can mask epistatic allelic association. These findings implicate epistasis among HLA class II alleles in human immune responses generally, provide partial explanation for intense linkage disequilibrium in the MHC, have relevance to animal models, and demonstrate key roles for DR2-specific interactions in MS susceptibility. MHC disease associations may be more generally haplotypic or diplotypic.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility demonstrates a complex pattern of inheritance. Haplotypes containing HLA-DRB1*1501 carry most of the genetic risk. Epidemiological evidence implicating epigenetic factors includes complex distortion of disease transmission seen in aunt/uncle-niece/nephew (AUNN) pairs. Unexpectedly, in AUNN families we found that allele frequencies for HLA-DRB1*1501 were different between the first and second generations affected. Affected aunts had significantly lower HLA-DRB1*15 frequency compared with their affected nieces (chi(2) = 9.90, P = 0.0016), whereas HLA-DRB1*15 frequency in affected males remains unaltered across the two generations (chi(2) = 0.23, P = 0.63). We compared transmissions for the HLA-DRB1*15 allele using a family-based transmission disequilibrium test approach in 1690 individuals from 350 affected sibling pair (ASP) families and 960 individuals from 187 AUNN families. Transmissions differed between the ASP and the AUNN families (chi(2) = 6.92; P = 0.0085). The risk carried by HLA-DRB1*15 was increased in families with affected second-degree relatives (AUNN: OR = 4.07) when compared with those consisting only first-degree relatives (ASP: OR = 2.17), establishing heterogeneity of risk among HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes based on whether collateral parental relatives are affected. These observations strongly implicate gene-environment interactions in susceptibility and more specifically, that epigenetic modifications differentiate among human leukocyte antigen class II risk haplotypes and are involved in the determination of the gender bias in MS. These data strongly suggest that the female-specific increasing risk of MS is mediated through these alleles or adjacent variation. The comparison of transmission of the same allele in vertically affected pedigrees (AUNN) to collinear sibling pairs (ASP) may provide a useful screen for putative epigenetic marks.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex trait in which allelic variation in the MHC class II region exerts the single strongest effect on genetic risk. Epidemiological data in MS provide strong evidence that environmental factors act at a population level to influence the unusual geographical distribution of this disease. Growing evidence implicates sunlight or vitamin D as a key environmental factor in aetiology. We hypothesised that this environmental candidate might interact with inherited factors and sought responsive regulatory elements in the MHC class II region. Sequence analysis localised a single MHC vitamin D response element (VDRE) to the promoter region of HLA-DRB1. Sequencing of this promoter in greater than 1,000 chromosomes from HLA-DRB1 homozygotes showed absolute conservation of this putative VDRE on HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes. In contrast, there was striking variation among non-MS-associated haplotypes. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed specific recruitment of vitamin D receptor to the VDRE in the HLA-DRB1*15 promoter, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments using lymphoblastoid cells homozygous for HLA-DRB1*15. Transient transfection using a luciferase reporter assay showed a functional role for this VDRE. B cells transiently transfected with the HLA-DRB1*15 gene promoter showed increased expression on stimulation with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (P = 0.002) that was lost both on deletion of the VDRE or with the homologous "VDRE" sequence found in non-MS-associated HLA-DRB1 haplotypes. Flow cytometric analysis showed a specific increase in the cell surface expression of HLA-DRB1 upon addition of vitamin D only in HLA-DRB1*15 bearing lymphoblastoid cells. This study further implicates vitamin D as a strong environmental candidate in MS by demonstrating direct functional interaction with the major locus determining genetic susceptibility. These findings support a connection between the main epidemiological and genetic features of this disease with major practical implications for studies of disease mechanism and prevention.
To identify rare variants contributing to multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility in a family we have previously reported with up to 15 individuals affected across 4 generations.
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