The genetics of lupus: a functional perspective
1 Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Division of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, King's College London, Great Maze Pond, London, SE1 9RT, UK
2 Academic department of Rheumatology, Division of Immunology, Infection and Inflammatory Diseases, School of Medicine, King's College London, Great Maze Pond, London, SE1 9RT, UK
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:211 doi:10.1186/ar3844Published: 29 May 2012
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component and is characterized by chronic inflammation and the production of anti-nuclear auto-antibodies. In the era of genome-wide association studies (GWASs), elucidating the genetic factors present in SLE has been a very successful endeavor; 28 confirmed disease susceptibility loci have been mapped. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of the genetics of lupus and focus on the strongest associated risk loci found to date (P <1.0 × 10−8). Although these loci account for less than 10% of the genetic heritability and therefore do not account for the bulk of the disease heritability, they do implicate important pathways, which contribute to SLE pathogenesis. Consequently, the main focus of the review is to outline the genetic variants in the known associated loci and then to explore the potential functional consequences of the associated variants. We also highlight the genetic overlap of these loci with other autoimmune diseases, which indicates common pathogenic mechanisms. The importance of developing functional assays will be discussed and each of them will be instrumental in furthering our understanding of these associated variants and loci. Finally, we indicate that performing a larger SLE GWAS and applying a more targeted set of methods, such as the ImmunoChip and next generation sequencing methodology, are important for identifying additional loci and enhancing our understanding of the pathogenesis of SLE.