Background Joint destruction is a hallmark of autoantibody-positive rheumatoid arthritis (RA), though the severity is highly variable between patients. The processes underlying these interindividual differences are incompletely understood.
Methods We performed a genome-wide association study on the radiological progression rate in 384 autoantibody-positive patients with RA. In stage-II 1557 X-rays of 301 Dutch autoantibody-positive patients with RA were studied and in stage-III 861 X-rays of 742 North American autoantibody-positive patients with RA. Sperm-Associated Antigen 16 (SPAG16) expression in RA synovium and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) was examined using Real-Time Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) and immunohistochemistry. FLS secrete metalloproteinases that degrade cartilage and bone. SPAG16 genotypes were related to matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-3 and MMP-1 expression by FLS in vitro and MMP-3 production ex vivo.
Results A cluster of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at 2q34, located at SPAG16, associated with the radiological progression rate; rs7607479 reached genome-wide significance. A protective role of rs7607479 was replicated in European and North American patients with RA. Per minor allele, patients had a 0.78-fold (95% CI 0.67 to 0.91) progression rate over 7 years. mRNA and protein expression of SPAG16 in RA synovium and FLS was verified. FLS carrying the minor allele secreted less MMP-3 (p=1.60×10−2). Furthermore, patients with RA carrying the minor allele had lower serum levels of MMP-3 (p=4.28×10−2). In a multivariate analysis on rs7607479 and MMP-3, only MMP-3 associated with progression (p=2.77×10−4), suggesting that the association between SPAG16-rs7607479 and joint damage is mediated via an effect on MMP-3 secretion.
Conclusions Genetic and functional analyses indicate that SPAG16 influences MMP-3 regulation and protects against joint destruction in autoantibody-positive RA. These findings could enhance risk stratification in autoantibody-positive RA.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Gene Polymorphism
- Outcomes Research