Takayasu arteritis risk locus in IL6 represses the anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB through chromatin looping and recruiting MEF2-HDAC complex

Ann Rheum Dis. 2019 Oct;78(10):1388-1397. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-215567. Epub 2019 Jul 17.


Objective: Previous work has revealed a genetic association between Takayasu arteritis and a non-coding genetic variant in an enhancer region within IL6 (rs2069837 A/G). The risk allele in this variant (allele A) has a protective effect against chronic viral infection and cancer. The goal of this study was to characterise the functional consequences of this disease-associated risk locus.

Methods: A combination of experimental and bioinformatics tools were used to mechanistically understand the effects of the disease-associated genetic locus in IL6. These included electrophoretic mobility shift assay, DNA affinity precipitation assays followed by mass spectrometry and western blotting, luciferase reporter assays and chromosome conformation capture (3C) to identify chromatin looping in the IL6 locus. Both cell lines and peripheral blood primary monocyte-derived macrophages were used.

Results: We identified the monocyte/macrophage anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB,~520 kb from IL6, as a target gene regulated by rs2069837. We revealed preferential recruitment of myocyte enhancer factor 2-histone deacetylase (MEF2-HDAC) repressive complex to the Takayasu arteritis risk allele. Further, we demonstrated suppression of GPNMB expression in monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy individuals with AA compared with AG genotype, which was reversed by histone deacetylase inhibition. Our data show that the risk allele in rs2069837 represses the expression of GPNMB by recruiting MEF2-HDAC complex, enabled through a long-range intrachromatin looping. Suppression of this anti-inflammatory gene might mediate increased susceptibility in Takayasu arteritis and enhance protective immune responses in chronic infection and cancer.

Conclusions: Takayasu arteritis risk locus in IL6 might increase disease susceptibility by suppression of the anti-inflammatory gene GPNMB through chromatin looping and recruitment of MEF2-HDAC epigenetic repressive complex. Our data highlight long-range chromatin interactions in functional genomic and epigenomic studies in autoimmunity.

Keywords: GPNMB; IL6; MEF2–HDAC; chromatin looping; takayasu arteritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Histone Deacetylases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Takayasu Arteritis / genetics*


  • Chromatin
  • GPNMB protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • MEF2 Transcription Factors
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Histone Deacetylases