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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Genetic analysis of the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and its homologue IL-1L1 in alopecia areata: strong severity association and possible gene interaction.

Alopecia areata is an inflammatory hair loss disease with a major genetic component. The presence of focal inflammatory lesions with perifollicular T-cell infiltrates reflects the importance of local cytokine production in the pathogenesis. In addition to its fundamental pro-inflammatory role, the interleukin-1 ( IL-1) system has major effects on hair growth regulation in vitro, with the inhibitory actions of IL-1alpha and IL-1beta being opposed by the receptor antagonist IL-1ra. The novel interleukin-1 like molecule 1 (IL-1L1) which has greatest gene sequence homology with IL1RN, the gene encoding IL-1ra, is another potential IL-1 antagonist. In view of previous studies suggesting a significant role for IL1RN polymorphisms in the pathogenesis of autoimmune/inflammatory disease, we have analysed polymorphisms of IL-1ra (IL1RN+2018) and its homologue IL-1L1 (IL1L1+4734) in a case-control association study on 165 patients and a large number of matched controls. Homozygosity for the rare allele of IL1RN (IL1RN*2) was significantly associated with alopecia areata [odds ratio (OR) = 1.89, 95% CI (1.09, 3.28); P = 0.02], confirming our previous findings of significant association with the IL1RN variable number tandem repeat (VNTR). The results also revealed a novel association involving a polymorphism of the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist homologue IL1L1 at position + 4734, IL1RN+2018, and alopecia areata. The effect of a genotype combining three copies of the rare alleles at the IL1RN and IL1L1 loci conferred a more than additive increase in the risk of disease compared to IL1RN+2018 or IL1L1+4734 alone [OR 3.37 (1.60, 7.06); P = 0.002], suggesting possible synergy between the IL1RN and IL1L1 genes. This effect was stronger in patients with severe disease (alopecia totalis/universalis) [OR 4.62 (1.87, 11.40), P = 0.0022], and in those with early age at onset (< 20 years) [OR = 6.38 (2.64, 15.42), P = 0.0002]. Our results suggest that these polymorphisms within IL1RN and IL1L1 themselves or a gene in linkage disequilibrium with IL1RN and IL1L1 predispose to the more severe forms of alopecia areata.[1]


  1. Genetic analysis of the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and its homologue IL-1L1 in alopecia areata: strong severity association and possible gene interaction. Tazi-Ahnini, R., Cox, A., McDonagh, A.J., Nicklin, M.J., di Giovine, F.S., Timms, J.M., Messenger, A.G., Dimitropoulou, P., Duff, G.W., Cork, M.J. Eur. J. Immunogenet. (2002) [Pubmed]
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