Objective: A previous whole-genome scan (WGS) of 182 UK rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affected sibling pair (ASP) families suggested linkage to HLA and 11 other chromosome regions. Replication of such findings in an independent cohort can help to distinguish true linkages from false-positive linkages. Since RA is a heterogeneous disease, some loci may be linked only in subsets of patients. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate in an additional set of RA ASP families linkage to regions showing deviation in expected allele-sharing ratios in the UK WGS and to perform subset analysis on the combined cohort.
Methods: Twenty loci were investigated for linkage in 217 Caucasian UK RA ASPs. Stratification analysis was performed on the combined cohort of 377 RA ASP families to account for sex, RA severity, and the shared epitope (SE).
Results: None of the regions of linkage identified in the initial WGS achieved statistical significance in the second cohort. In contrast, after stratification analysis, 14 regions showed nominal evidence of linkage (logarithm of odds score >0.8) in one or more subgroups. In particular, the strength of evidence for linkage to chromosome 16p was increased in subsets of ASPs with younger age at disease onset (LOD score 2.38) and for linkage to chromosome 6q in female-female ASPs (LOD score 2.31) and in ASPs in which both siblings had 2 copies of the SE (LOD score 3.03).
Conclusion: These results support the evidence for heterogeneity of RA. This information will inform the future design of association-based investigations as the search for disease genes in the linked regions begins.