Parallel Gene Expression Changes in Sarcoidosis Involving the Lacrimal Gland, Orbital Tissue, or Blood

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015 Jul;133(7):770-7. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.0726.


Importance: Sarcoidosis is a major cause of ocular or periocular inflammation. The pathogenesis of sarcoidosis is incompletely understood and diagnosis often requires a biopsy.

Objective: To determine how gene expression in either orbital adipose tissue or the lacrimal gland affected by sarcoidosis compares with gene expression in other causes of orbital disease and how gene expression in tissue affected by sarcoidosis compares with gene expression in peripheral blood samples obtained from patients with sarcoidosis.

Design, setting, and participants: In a multicenter, international, observational study, gene expression profiling of formalin-fixed biopsy specimens, using GeneChipp U133 Plus 2 microarrays (Affymetrix), was conducted between October 2012 and January 2014 on tissues biopsied from January 2000 through June 2013. Participants included 12 patients with orbital sarcoidosis (7 in adipose tissue; 5 affecting the lacrimal gland) as well as comparable tissue from 6 healthy individuals serving as controls or patients with thyroid eye disease, nonspecific orbital inflammation, or granulomatosis with polyangiitis. In addition, results were compared with gene expression in peripheral blood samples obtained from 12 historical individuals with sarcoidosis.

Main outcomes and measures: Significantly differentially expressed transcripts defined as a minimum of a 1.5-fold increase or a comparable decrease and a false discovery rate of P < .05.

Results: Signals from 2449 probe sets (transcripts from approximately 1522 genes) were significantly increased in the orbital adipose tissue from patients with sarcoidosis. Signals from 4050 probe sets (approximately 2619 genes) were significantly decreased. Signals from 3069 probe sets (approximately 2001 genes) were significantly higher and 3320 (approximately 2283 genes) were significantly lower in the lacrimal gland for patients with sarcoidosis. Ninety-two probe sets (approximately 69 genes) had significantly elevated signals and 67 probe sets (approximately 56 genes) had significantly lower signals in both orbital tissues and in peripheral blood from patients with sarcoidosis. The transcription factors, interferon-response factor 1, interferon-response factor 2, and nuclear factor κB, were strongly implicated in the expression of messenger RNA upregulated in common in the 3 tissues.

Conclusions and relevance: Gene expression in sarcoidosis involving the orbit or lacrimal gland can be distinguished from gene expression patterns in control tissue and overlaps with many transcripts upregulated or downregulated in the peripheral blood of patients with sarcoidosis. These observations suggest that common pathogenic mechanisms contribute to sarcoidosis in different sites. The observations support the hypothesis that a pattern of gene expression profiles could provide diagnostic information in patients with sarcoidosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Eye Diseases / blood
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Eye Diseases / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbit
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reference Values
  • Sarcoidosis / blood
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnosis*
  • Sarcoidosis / genetics*
  • Sarcoidosis / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Up-Regulation


  • RNA, Messenger