Genetic variation in the serotonin receptor gene affects immune responses in rheumatoid arthritis

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Many genetic variants associate with the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however, their functional roles are largely unknown. Here, we aimed to investigate whether the RA-associated serotonin receptor 2A (HTR2A) haplotype affects T-cell and monocyte functions. Patients with established RA (n = 379) were genotyped for two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the HTR2A locus, rs6314 and rs1328674, to define presence of the risk haplotype for each individual. Patients with and without the RAassociated TC haplotype were selected and T-cell and monocyte function was monitored following in vitro stimulations with staphylococcal enterotoxin B and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) using multiparameter flow cytometry. Within the cohort, 44 patients were heterozygous for the TC haplotype (11.6%) while none were homozygous. Upon stimulation, T cells from TC-carrier patients produced more proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-17 (IL-17) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ)) and monocytes produced higher levels of TNF-α compared with patients carrying the non-TC haplotype (P<0.05 and 0.01, respectively). Such cytokine production could be inhibited in the presence of the selective 5-HT2 receptor agonist (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine, DOI); interestingly, this effect was more pronounced in TC carriers. Our data demonstrate that association of RA with a distinct serotonin receptor haplotype has functional impact by affecting the immunological phenotype of T cells and monocytes.

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