Objective: The genetic factors predisposing to Wegener's granulomatosis (WG) are largely unknown. T cells are clearly involved in the disease, as are the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 1beta (IL-1beta). The cytotoxic T lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) suppresses antigen-specific immune responses by opposing the CD28 pathway, and is crucial for a balanced T cell activation. Genetic variations in the TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, and CTLA-4 genes could thus be important in WG.
Methods: Polymorphisms in the genes coding for TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, and CTLA-4 were analyzed in 32 Swedish Caucasian patients and 109 ethnically matched controls. Results. A strong association of Ctla-4 (AT)n microsatellite to WG contrasts to the negative finding of associations between TNF-alpha NcoI, IL-1beta TaqI restriction fragment length polymorphism, and WG. The prevalence of the shortest Ctla-4 allele was decreased in patients with WG compared with healthy individuals (p < 0.0001, pc < 0.0016).
Conclusions: This is the first report of a T cell related gene in association with WG. The Ctla-4 itself, or a gene close to Ctla-4, may thus contribute to the pathogenesis of WG by allowing an increased T cell activation by antigen.