Causal risk and protective factors in rheumatoid arthritis: A genetic update

J Transl Autoimmun. 2021 Sep 3;4:100119. doi: 10.1016/j.jtauto.2021.100119. eCollection 2021.


The characterization of risk and protective factors in complex diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has evolved from epidemiological studies, which test association, to the use of Mendelian randomization approaches, which test direct relationships. Indeed, direct associations with the mucosal origin of RA are retrieved with periodontal disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans predominantly), interstitial lung involvement, tobacco smoking and air pollutants. Next, factors directly associated with an acquired immune response include genetic factors (HLA DRB1, PTPN22), capacity to produce anti-modified protein antibodies (AMPA), and relatives with a history of autoimmune diseases. Finally, factors can be also classified according to their direct capacity to interfere with the IL-6/CRP/sIL-IL6R proinflammatory pathway as risk factor (body fat, cardiometabolic factors, type 2 diabetes, depressive syndrome) or either as protective factors by controlling of sIL-6R levels (higher education level, and intelligence). Although some co-founders have been characterized (e.g. vitamin D, physical activity, cancer) the direct association with sex-discrepancy, pregnancy, and infections among other factors remains to be better explored.

Keywords: Inflammation; Mendelian's randomization; Rheumatoid arthritis; Risk factors; Soluble IL-6 receptor.