Both genetic and epigenetic factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of lupus. The aim of this study was to examine methyl-CpG–binding protein 2 gene (MECP2) polymorphisms in a large cohort of patients with lupus and control subjects, and to determine the functional consequences of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype.
We genotyped 18 single-nucleotide polymorphisms within MECP2, located on chromosome Xq28, in a large cohort of patients with lupus and control subjects of European descent. We studied the functional effects of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype by determining gene expression profiles in B cell lines in female lupus patients with and those without the lupus-associated MECP2 risk haplotype.
We confirmed, replicated, and extended the genetic association between lupus and genetic markers within MECP2 in a large independent cohort of lupus patients and control subjects of European descent (odds ratio 1.35, P = 6.65 × 10−11). MECP2 is a dichotomous transcription regulator that either activates or represses gene expression. We identified 128 genes that are differentially expressed in lupus patients with the disease-associated MECP2 haplotype; most (∼81%) were up-regulated. Genes that were up-regulated had significantly more CpG islands in their promoter regions compared with genes that were down-regulated. Gene ontology analysis using the differentially expressed genes revealed significant association with epigenetic regulatory mechanisms, suggesting that these genes are targets for MECP2 regulation in B cells. Furthermore, at least 13 of the 104 up-regulated genes are regulated by interferon. The disease-risk MECP2 haplotype was associated with increased expression of the MECP2 transcription coactivator CREB1 and decreased expression of the corepressor histone deacetylase 1.
Polymorphism in the MECP2 locus is associated with lupus and, at least in part, contributes to the interferon signature observed in lupus patients.