Open Access Research article

Cis-regulation of IRF5 expression is unable to fully account for systemic lupus erythematosus association: analysis of multiple experiments with lymphoblastoid cell lines

Elisa Alonso-Perez1, Marian Suarez-Gestal1, Manuel Calaza1, Tony Kwan2, Jacek Majewski2, Juan J Gomez-Reino13 and Antonio Gonzalez1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratorio Investigacion 10 and Rheumatology Unit, Instituto de Investigacion Sanitaria-Hospital Clinico Universitario de Santiago, Travesia Choupana sn, Santiago de Compostela E-15706, Spain

2 Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, 1205 Dr Penfield Avenue, Montreal H3A 1B1, Canada

3 Department of Medicine, University of Santiago de Compostela, San Francisco sn, Santiago de Compostela, E-15782, Spain

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R80  doi:10.1186/ar3343

Published: 31 May 2011



Interferon regulatory factor 5 gene (IRF5) polymorphisms are strongly associated with several diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The association includes risk and protective components. They could be due to combinations of functional polymorphisms and related to cis-regulation of IRF5 expression, but their mechanisms are still uncertain. We hypothesised that thorough testing of the relationships between IRF5 polymorphisms, expression data from multiple experiments and SLE-associated haplotypes might provide useful new information.


Expression data from four published microarray hybridisation experiments with lymphoblastoid cell lines (57 to 181 cell lines) were retrieved. Genotypes of 109 IRF5 polymorphisms, including four known functional polymorphisms, were considered. The best linear regression models accounting for the IRF5 expression data were selected by using a forward entry procedure. SLE-associated IRF5 haplotypes were correlated with the expression data and with the best cis-regulatory models.


A large fraction of variability in IRF5 expression was accounted for by linear regression models with IRF5 polymorphisms, but at a different level in each expression data set. Also, the best models from each expression data set were different, although there was overlap between them. The SNP introducing an early polyadenylation signal, rs10954213, was included in the best models for two of the expression data sets and in good models for the other two data sets. The SLE risk haplotype was associated with high IRF5 expression in the four expression data sets. However, there was also a trend towards high IRF5 expression with some protective and neutral haplotypes, and the protective haplotypes were not associated with IRF5 expression. As a consequence, correlation between the cis-regulatory best models and SLE-associated haplotypes, regarding either the risk or protective component, was poor.


Our analysis indicates that although the SLE risk haplotype of IRF5 is associated with high expression of the gene, cis-regulation of IRF5 expression is not enough to fully account for IRF5 association with SLE susceptibility, which indicates the need to identify additional functional changes in this gene.

systemic lupus erythematosus; IRF5; lymphoblastoid cell lines; cis-regulation; disease susceptibility; linear regression models