The NZM2410-derived Sle1a lupus susceptibility locus induces activated autoreactive CD4 T cells and reduces the number and function of Foxp3 regulatory T cells (Tregs). In this study, we first showed that Sle1a contributes to autoimmunity by increasing antinuclear antibody production when expressed on either NZB or NZW heterozygous genomes, and by enhancing the chronic graft versus host disease response indicating an expansion of the autoreactive B-cell pool. Screening two non-overlapping recombinants, the Sle1a.1 and Sle1a.2 intervals that cover the entire Sle1a locus, revealed that both Sle1a.1 and Sle1a.2 were necessary for the full Sle1a phenotype. Sle1a.1, and to a lesser extent Sle1a.2, significantly affected CD4 T-cell activation as well as Treg differentiation and function. Sle1a.2 also increased the production of autoreactive B cells. As the Sle1a.1 and Sle1a.2 intervals contain only 1 and 15 known genes, respectively, this study considerably reduces the number of candidate genes responsible for the production of autoreactive T cells. These results also show that the Sle1 locus is an excellent model for the genetic architecture of lupus, in which a major obligate phenotype results from the coexpression of multiple genetic variants with individual weak effects.
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