Sex effect on clinical and immunologic quantitative trait loci in a murine model of rheumatoid arthritis




To explore the effect of sex on clinical and immunologic traits in major histocompatibility complex–matched (H-2d) F2 hybrid mice with proteoglycan (PG)–induced arthritis and to identify how the quantitative trait locus (QTL) on the X chromosome influences the onset QTL of another chromosome.


(BALB/c × DBA/2)F2 hybrid mice were immunized with cartilage PG, and a genome-wide linkage analysis was performed using >200 simple sequence-length polymorphic markers. The major clinical traits (susceptibility, onset, and severity) were assessed, and PG-specific T and B cell responses, and the production of proinflammatory and antiinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin-1 [IL-1], IL-6, interferon-γ, IL-4, IL-10, and IL-12) were measured in 133 arthritic and 426 nonarthritic female and male F2 hybrid mice. The major clinical and immunologic traits were linked to genetic loci, and potential linkages among these QTLs and the effect of sex were analyzed.


Thirteen QTLs reported in previous studies were confirmed. Binary traits (susceptibility to arthritis) and disease onset were female specific and were identified on chromosomes 3, 7, 10, 11, 13, and X. QTLs for disease severity were mostly male specific and were located on chromosomes 1, 4, 5, 8, 14, 15, and 19. In addition, we identified 4 new QTLs for the onset of arthritis on chromosomes 3, 4, and 11, and 1 new QTL for severity on chromosome 14; all showed a strong gender association. A locus on the X chromosome interacted with a QTL on chromosome 10, and these 2 loci together seemed to control disease incidence and onset. Most of the clinical traits (QTLs) shared common regions with the immunologic traits and frequently showed a locus–locus interaction.


Numerous immunologic QTLs overlap with clinical QTLs, thus providing information about possible mechanisms underlying QTL function. Disease susceptibility and onset showed predominant linkage with the female sex, under the control of a QTL on the X chromosome, while the severity QTLs were more strongly linked to the male sex.