Identification of an Association ofTNFAIP3Polymorphisms With Matrix Metalloproteinase Expression in Fibroblasts in an Integrative Study of Systemic Sclerosis–Associated Genetic and Environmental Factors

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Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a fibrotic disease attributed to both genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. This study was undertaken to investigate the associations between SSc-associated genetic variants and the expression of extracellular matrix (ECM) genes in human fibroblasts stimulated with silica particles in time-course and dose-response experiments.


A total of 200 fibroblast strains were examined for ECM gene expression after stimulation with silica particles. The fibroblasts were genetically profiled using Immunochip assays and then subjected to whole-genome genotype imputation. Associations of genotypes and gene expression were first analyzed in a Caucasian cohort and then validated in a meta-analysis combining the results from Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic subjects. A linear mixed model for longitudinal data analysis was used to identify genetic variants associated with the expression of ECM genes, and the associations were validated by using a haplotype-based longitudinal association test on regions that included the loci identified.


The single-nucleotide polymorphism rs58905141 inTNFAIP3was consistently associated with time-course and/or dose-response expression ofMMP3andMMP1in the fibroblasts stimulated with silica particles in both the analysis of Caucasian subjects only and the meta-analysis. Results of the haplotype-based analysis validated the association signals.


Our findings indicate that a genetic variant ofTNFAIP3is strongly associated with the silica-induced profibrotic response of fibroblasts. In silico functional analysis based on the ENCODE database revealed that rs58905141 might affect the binding activities of the transcription factors forTNFAIP3. This is the first genome-wide study of interactions between genetic and environmental factors in a complex SSc fibroblast model.

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