To identify rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility genes in a Japanese population by conducting a large-scale case–control association analysis and linkage disequilibrium (LD) mapping on chromosome 7q31–34, a candidate susceptibility locus identified in a preliminary genome-wide scan in 53 Japanese families, using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
We prepared 728 dense, evenly spaced SNPs with a minor allele frequency >0.15 in each gene locus on chromosome 7q31–34. Using these SNPs, a 2-stage case–control analysis was performed on 760 RA patients (157 men and 603 women) and 806 non-RA controls (189 men and 617 women). Haplotypes and LD mapping results were assessed based on SNP genotypes in 380 controls.
Forty-eight SNPs showed allele associations (P < 0.05) in the first set of DNA samples (380 RA cases and 380 non-RA controls; first-stage analysis). For 4 of the SNPs in the SEC8L1 gene, the association was replicated (P < 0.05) in the second, independent set of DNA samples (an additional 380 RA cases and 380 non-RA controls; second-stage analysis). When data from the 2 groups were combined, the most significant allele association was observed with SNP 441, an intronic SNP of the SEC8L1 gene (P = 0.000059). The SEC8L1 SNPs with significant allele associations were all located in a single conserved LD block (block 4). Haplotype analysis revealed the disease-risk (P = 0.0015) and disease-protective (P = 0.0000062) haplotypes. Resequencing of coding exons within block 4 did not identify any nonsynonymous SNPs. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction revealed that SEC8L1 was expressed ubiquitously in human tissues, including fibroblast-like synoviocytes from RA patients.
Our locus-wide association and LD analyses identified intronic SNPs and haplotypes in the SEC8L1 gene that are strongly associated with RA. We propose that SEC8L1, which encodes a component of the exocyst complex, is a candidate susceptibility gene for RA in the Japanese population.