Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex systemic autoimmune disease caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Genome scans in families with SLE point to multiple potential chromosomal regions that harbor SLE susceptibility genes, and association studies in different populations have suggested several susceptibility alleles for SLE. Increased production of type I interferon (IFN) and expression of IFN-inducible genes is commonly observed in SLE and may be pivotal in the molecular pathogenesis of the disease. We analyzed 44 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 13 genes from the type I IFN pathway in 679 Swedish, Finnish, and Icelandic patients with SLE, in 798 unaffected family members, and in 438 unrelated control individuals for joint linkage and association with SLE. In two of the genes - the tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) and IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) genes - we identified SNPs that displayed strong signals in joint analysis of linkage and association (unadjusted P < 10-7) with SLE. TYK2 binds to the type I IFN receptor complex and IRF5 is a regulator of type I IFN gene expression. Thus, our results support a disease mechanism in SLE that involves key components of the type I IFN system.
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