Effect of donor STAT4 polymorphism rs7574865 on clinical outcomes of pediatric acute leukemia patients after hematopoietic stem cell transplant

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STAT4 polymorphism, rs7574865 is linked to various autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Its T minor allele is associated with higher STAT4 mRNA and protein expression, indicating a stronger skewed immune response than the norm. Although widely studied in autoimmune disease patients and the general population, its effect on immunocompromised subjects is still unknown. Especially in situations, i.e. post-hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (post-HSCT), where control of the immune response is crucial. Hence, this study investigates if the presence of the T minor allele in donors would affect immunological response and clinical outcomes post-HSCT. Samples from 161 pediatric patients who underwent allogeneic HSCT for acute leukemia and showed complete chimerism by donor cells were obtained. Six clinical outcomes were investigated; hepatic veno-occlusive disease, acute graft-vs-host disease, chronic graft-vs-host disease, cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, relapse and overall survival. The TT genotype was found to be significant in the occurrence of CMV infection (P = 0.049), showing higher incidence of CMV infection compared to the others. Multivariate analysis confirmed that association of the TT genotype is independent from other variables in CMV infection occurrence (P = 0.010). This is the first study on STAT4 polymorphism rs7574865 in allogeneic HSCT as well as immunocompromised patients. As the TT genotype is associated with autoimmune diseases, our results seem at a paradox with current evidence hinting at a different role of STAT4 in normal circumstances versus immunocompromised patients. Further investigation is needed to elicit the reason behind this and discover novel applications for better post-transplant outcomes.

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