Context: Autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD), comprising Graves' disease and autoimmune hypothyroidism, are characterized by loss of immunological self-tolerance to thyroid antigens. These are complex diseases arising from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. An understanding of the genetic susceptibility factors for AITD could help to target treatments more effectively and identify people at risk for these conditions.
Objective: The objective of this study was to identify regions of genetic linkage to AITD that could potentially harbor genetic susceptibility factors for these conditions.
Design: The study design was a genome-wide screen performed on affected relative pairs with AITD.
Setting: Patients were recruited through hospital endocrinology clinics.
Participants: Some 1119 Caucasian relative pairs affected with AITD (Graves' disease or autoimmune hypothyroidism) were recruited into the study.
Intervention: Blood samples were obtained from each participant for DNA analysis, and clinical questionnaires were completed.
Main outcome measure: The study aimed to identify regions of genetic linkage to AITD.
Results: Three regions of suggestive linkage were obtained on chromosomes 18p11 (maximum LOD score, 2.5), 2q36 (maximum LOD score, 2.2), and 11p15 (maximum LOD score, 2.0). No linkage to human leukocyte antigen was found.
Conclusions: The absence of significant evidence of linkage at any one locus in such a large dataset argues that genetic susceptibility to AITD reflects a number of loci, each with a modest effect. Linkage analysis may be limited in defining such loci, and large-scale association studies may prove to be more useful in identifying genetic susceptibility factors for AITD.