Objective: Insufficiency of mannose-binding lectin (MBL) is associated with recurrent infections. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may represent an aberrant immune response to infections. This study examined the phenotypic expression and variant alleles of the MBL gene and its etiologic role in Chinese with RA.
Methods: We studied 211 RA patients and 196 healthy subjects. Serum MBL concentrations and codon-54 mutation of the MBL gene and its promoter polymorphisms were analyzed. Clinical characteristics and disease activity were also examined.
Results: Patients with RA had significantly lower serum MBL levels and higher frequency of codon-54 mutation of the MBL gene compared with controls. Additionally, there was a significant difference in the distribution of promoter polymorphisms, H/L, between RA patients and controls, although the frequencies of Y/X and those of nonstructural polymorphisms, P/Q, did not differ between the 2 groups. Furthermore, patients with RA had a lower incidence of the highest-producing haplotype HY and a higher incidence of the lowest-producing haplotype LX compared with controls. Serum MBL levels did not correlate with drug treatment or with disease activity. However, patients with erosive and serious extraarticular disease had significantly lower serum MBL levels than those without these disease manifestations at the time of study. Also, significantly more patients with erosive disease had a codon-54 mutation of the MBL gene compared with those with nonerosive disease.
Conclusion: The codon-54 mutation and low-producing promoter polymorphisms of the MBL gene are associated with RA. A low serum level of MBL predisposes to the development of RA and is a risk factor for severe disease in southern Chinese.