Common genetic variants significantly influence complex diseases such as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). We recently reported an association between PBC and a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs231725) of the immunoreceptor gene cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA4). We hypothesized that PBC risk attributed to this polymorphism might be increased by propensity to an overly robust inflammatory response. Thus, we examined its potential interaction with the commonly studied -308AG promoter polymorphism (rs1800629) of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) gene for which the variant TNF2A allele causes increased TNF production. The polymorphisms were genotyped in 866 PBC patients and 761 controls from independent US and Canadian registries; the effects of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and their interaction on PBC risk was assessed by logistic regression. The reported association of PBC with the CTLA4 "A/A" genotype was replicated in the Canadian cohort and significant for PBC risk in the combined data (odds ratio [OR], 1.68; P = 0.0005). TNF2A allele frequency was elevated in PBC patients, but only reached borderline significance using the combined data (OR, 1.21; P = 0.042). Analysis showed that TNF2A carriage was significantly increased in CTLA4 "A/A" PBC patients compared with CTLA4 "A/A" controls (39.7% versus 16.5%, P = 0.0004); no apparent increase of TNF2A carriage was noted in CTLA4 "A/G" or "G/G" individuals. Finally, interaction under a logistic model was highly significant, as TNF2A carriage in combination with the CTLA4 "A/A" genotype was present in 6.5% of PBC patients, compared with 1.7% of controls (OR, 3.98; P < 0.0001). Conclusion: TNF2A amplifies the CTLA4 rs231725 "A/A" genotype risk for PBC. Although the mechanisms remain unclear, the premise that deficiency in T-cell regulation resulting in an increased risk of PBC is amplified by overexpression of an important proinflammatory cytokine provides a basis for future functional studies.
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