Background Atopic dermatitis (AD) is one of the most common childhood disorders. It can have a significant impact on the physical and psychological well-being of affected individuals. Although environmental triggers are important, AD also has a strong genetic component. Identifying genes associated with AD may help to understand better the basis of this disorder and its relationship with other allergic disorders such as asthma.
Objectives Polymorphisms in the gene encoding the inhibitory CTLA4 receptor, an important regulator of T cells, are associated with asthma as well as autoimmune disorders. We have now tested whether polymorphisms in the CTLA4 gene are also associated with early childhood AD.
Methods A family-based cohort of 112 children and their parents was recruited from Western Sydney, Australia. All children were seen by a paediatric dermatologist and presented with AD within the first 3 years of life. Using the transmission disequilibrium test, individual and haplotypic associations with the +49 and CT60 polymorphisms in exon 1 and the 3′ nontranslated DNA of the CTLA4 gene were tested.
Results Single tests of association revealed significant association of the +49(A) [P = 0·037, odds ratio (OR) 1·59, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1–2·55] and borderline significance of the CT60(A) alleles (P = 0·055, OR 1·51, 95% CI 1–2·38). Significant association of the +49(A)/CT60(A) haplotype was detected (P = 0·002, OR 1·78, 95% CI 1·2–2·65).
Conclusions Polymorphisms within the gene encoding CTLA4 were associated with early onset infant AD. This is in agreement with findings from asthmatic cohorts, suggesting that the +49(A)/CT60(A) haplotype is a genetic risk factor common to asthma and AD.