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Takayasu arteritis risk locus in IL6 represses the anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB through chromatin looping and recruiting MEF2–HDAC complex
  1. Xiufang Kong1,2,
  2. Amr H Sawalha1,3,4,5
  1. 1 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  2. 2 Division of Rheumatology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  3. 3 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  4. 4 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5 Lupus Center of Excellence, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Amr H Sawalha, 7123 Rangos Research Center, 4401 Penn Avenue, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA; asawalha{at}


Objective Previous work has revealed a genetic association between Takayasu arteritis and a non-coding genetic variant in an enhancer region within IL6 (rs2069837 A/G). The risk allele in this variant (allele A) has a protective effect against chronic viral infection and cancer. The goal of this study was to characterise the functional consequences of this disease-associated risk locus.

Methods A combination of experimental and bioinformatics tools were used to mechanistically understand the effects of the disease-associated genetic locus in IL6. These included electrophoretic mobility shift assay, DNA affinity precipitation assays followed by mass spectrometry and western blotting, luciferase reporter assays and chromosome conformation capture (3C) to identify chromatin looping in the IL6 locus. Both cell lines and peripheral blood primary monocyte-derived macrophages were used.

Results We identified the monocyte/macrophage anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB,~520 kb from IL6, as a target gene regulated by rs2069837. We revealed preferential recruitment of myocyte enhancer factor 2–histone deacetylase (MEF2–HDAC) repressive complex to the Takayasu arteritis risk allele. Further, we demonstrated suppression of GPNMB expression in monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy individuals with AA compared with AG genotype, which was reversed by histone deacetylase inhibition. Our data show that the risk allele in rs2069837 represses the expression of GPNMB by recruiting MEF2–HDAC complex, enabled through a long-range intrachromatin looping. Suppression of this anti-inflammatory gene might mediate increased susceptibility in Takayasu arteritis and enhance protective immune responses in chronic infection and cancer.

Conclusions Takayasu arteritis risk locus in IL6 might increase disease susceptibility by suppression of the anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB through chromatin looping and recruitment of MEF2–HDAC epigenetic repressive complex. Our data highlight long-range chromatin interactions in functional genomic and epigenomic studies in autoimmunity.

  • IL6
  • takayasu arteritis
  • chromatin looping
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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors All authors fulfilled the following criteria: substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data; drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content and final approval of the version published.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health grant number R01AR070148.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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