Lindén M, Ramírez Sepúlveda JI, James T, Thorlacius GE, Brauner S, Gómez-Cabrero D, Olsson T, Kockum I, Wahren-Herlenius M
Biol Sex Differ 8 (1) 34 [2017-10-25; online 2017-10-25]
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) are autoimmune disorders characterized by autoantibodies, dysregulated B cells, and notably high female-to-male incidence ratios. Genome-wide association studies have identified several susceptibility SNPs for both diseases. Many SNPs in the genome are expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), with context-dependent effects. Assuming that sex is a biological context, we investigated whether SLE/pSS SNPs act as eQTLs in B cells and used a disease-targeted approach to understand if they display sex-specific effects. We used genome-wide genotype and gene expression data from primary B cells from 125 males and 162 females. The MatrixEQTL R package was used to identify eQTLs within a genomic window of 2 Mb centered on each of 22 established SLE and/or pSS susceptibility SNPs. To find sex-specific eQTLs, we used a linear model with a SNP * sex interaction term. We found ten SNPs affecting the expression of 16 different genes (FDR < 0.05). rs7574865-INPP1, rs7574865-MYO1B, rs4938573-CD3D, rs11755393-SNRPC, and rs4963128-PHRF1 were novel observations for the immune compartment and B cells. By analyzing the SNP * sex interaction terms, we identified six genes with differentially regulated expression in females compared to males, depending on the genotype of SLE/pSS-associated SNPs: SLC39A8 (BANK1 locus), CD74 (TNIP1 locus), PXK, CTSB (BLK/FAM167A locus), ARCN1 (CXCR5 locus), and DHX9 (NCF2 locus). We identified several unknown sex-specific eQTL effects of SLE/pSS-associated genetic polymorphisms and provide novel insight into how gene-sex interactions may contribute to the sex bias in systemic autoimmune diseases.