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HLA alleles associated with risk of ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis influence the gut microbiome

By Mark Asquith, Peter R Sternes, Mary-Ellen Costello, Lisa Karstens, Sarah Diamond, Tammy M Martin, Timothy D. Spector, Kim-Anh le Cao, James T Rosenbaum, Matthew A Brown

Posted 11 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/517813 (published DOI: 10.1002/art.40917)

Objectives: HLA alleles affect susceptibility to more than 100 diseases, but the mechanisms to account for these genotype-disease associations are largely unknown. HLA-alleles strongly influence predisposition to ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both AS and RA patients have discrete intestinal and faecal microbiome signatures. Whether these changes are cause or consequence of the diseases themselves is unclear. To distinguish these possibilities, we examine the effect of HLA-B27 and HLA-DRB1 RA-risk alleles on the composition of the intestinal microbiome in healthy individuals. Methods: 568 samples from 6 intestinal sites were collected from 107 otherwise healthy unrelated subjects and stool samples from 696 twin pairs from the TwinsUK cohort. Microbiome profiling was performed using sequencing of the 16S rRNA bacterial marker gene. All patients were genotyped using the Illumina CoreExome SNP microarray, and HLA genotypes were imputed from these data. Results: Association was observed between HLA-B27 genotype, and RA-risk HLA-DRB1 alleles, and overall microbial composition (P=0.0002 and P=0.00001 respectively). These associations were replicated in the TwinsUK cohort stool samples (P=0.023 and P=0.033 respectively). Conclusions: This study shows that the changes in intestinal microbiome composition seen in AS and RA are at least partially due to effects of HLA-B27 and -DRB1 on the gut microbiome. These findings support the hypothesis that HLA alleles operate to cause or increase the risk of these diseases through interaction with the intestinal microbiome, and suggest that therapies targeting the microbiome may be effective in their prevention and/or treatment.

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