OBJECTIVE--In rheumatoid arthritis (RA) genetic factors influence susceptibility to disease and progression. Identifying these genetic factors may give more insight into the aetiology and pathogenesis of this disease. Furthermore, if these genetic markers can predict progression in an early stage of disease, timely institution of more aggressive treatment in patients with a bad prognosis may help to prevent joint damage. Several studies have shown that HLA-DRB1 alleles are associated with RA, whereas others have indicated that genes not linked to the HLA complex are also involved. Candidates for such genes are the T cell receptor (TCR) alpha/beta genes. METHODS--The association of a polymorphism in a TCR beta chain variable region gene (TCR-V beta 8) with both risk for RA and radiographic progression of joint disease was analysed after a three year follow up. A cohort of 118 white patients with a duration of disease shorter than one year at entry, and 110 white controls were typed for this (BamHI) TCR-V beta 8 polymorphism. RESULTS--The distribution of the two alleles, 2.0 and 23.0 kb, was identical in patients and controls. Radiographic progression (modified Sharp method) after a three year follow up, studied in 111 patients, was significantly less in the group possessing the 2.0 kb allele (p = 0.03). CONCLUSION--This does not confirm the reported association of the (BamHI) TCR-V beta 8 2.0 kb allele with RA. By contrast with previous findings in smaller studies, in the present study this 2.0 kb allele was protective against radiographic progression. Because well known prognostic variables in RA were corrected for, the findings indicate that the TCR-V beta 8 polymorphism studied is a new prognostic marker for this disease.
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