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The study of interactions between genome and exposome in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus


Leffers HCB1, Lange T2, Collins C3, Ulff-Møller CJ1, Jacobsen S4. Autoimmun Rev. 2019 Feb 14. pii: S1568-9972(19)30040-0. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2018.11.005. [Epub ahead of print]

Author Information

1 Copenhagen Lupus and Vasculitis Clinic, Center for Rheumatology and Spine Diseases, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.

2 Department of Public Health, Section of Biostatistics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Center for Statistical Science, Peking University, Beijing, China.

3 Department of Rheumatology, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC, USA.

4 Copenhagen Lupus and Vasculitis Clinic, Center for Rheumatology and Spine Diseases, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark; Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.. Electronic address: sj@dadlnet.dk.



Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by a broad spectrum of clinical and serological manifestations. This may reflect a complex and multifactorial etiology involving several identified genetic and environmental factors, though not explaining the full risk of SLE. Established SLE risk genotypes are either very rare or with modest effect sizes and twin studies indicate that other factors besides genetics must be operative in SLE etiology. The exposome comprises the cumulative environmental influences on an individual and associated biological responses through the lifespan. It has been demonstrated that exposure to silica, smoking and exogenous hormones candidate as environmental risk factors in SLE, while alcohol consumption seems to be protective. Very few studies have investigated potential gene-environment interactions to determine if some of the unexplained SLE risk is attributable hereto. Even less have focused on interactions between specific risk genotypes and environmental exposures relevant to SLE pathogenesis. Cohort and case-control studies may provide data to suggest such biological interactions and various statistical measures of interaction can indicate the magnitude of such. However, such studies do often have very large sample-size requirements and we suggest that the rarity of SLE to some extent can be compensated by increasing the ratio of controls. This review summarizes the current body of knowledge on gene-environment interactions in SLE. We argue for the prioritization of studies that comprise the increasing details available of the genome and exposome relevant to SLE as they have the potential to disclose new aspects of SLE pathogenesis including phenotype heterogeneity.