Relationship Between a Vitamin D Genetic Risk Score and Autoantibodies Among First-Degree Relatives of Probands With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Front Immunol. 2022 Jun 3;13:881332. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.881332. eCollection 2022.


Objective: Higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels have been associated with reduced risk for autoimmune diseases and are influenced by vitamin D metabolism genes. We estimated genetically-determined vitamin D levels by calculating a genetic risk score (GRS) and investigated whether the vitamin D GRS was associated with the presence of autoantibodies related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in those at increased risk for developing RA and SLE, respectively.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we selected autoantibody positive (aAb+) and autoantibody negative (aAb-) individuals from the Studies of the Etiologies of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA), a cohort study of first-degree relatives (FDRs) of individuals with RA (189 RA aAb+, 181 RA aAb-), and the Lupus Family Registry and Repository (LFRR), a cohort study of FDRs of individuals with SLE (157 SLE aAb+, 185 SLE aAb-). Five SNPs known to be associated with serum 25(OH)D levels were analyzed individually as well as in a GRS: rs4588 (GC), rs12785878 (NADSYN1), rs10741657 (CYP2R1), rs6538691 (AMDHD1), and rs8018720 (SEC23A).

Results: Both cohorts had similar demographic characteristics, with significantly older and a higher proportion of males in the aAb+ FDRs. The vitamin D GRS was inversely associated with RA aAb+ (OR = 0.85, 95% CI = 0.74-0.99), suggesting a possible protective factor for RA aAb positivity in FDRs of RA probands. The vitamin D GRS was not associated with SLE aAb+ in the LFRR (OR = 1.09, 95% CI = 0.94-1.27). The SEC23A SNP was associated with RA aAb+ in SERA (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.43-0.99); this SNP was not associated with SLE aAb+ in LFRR (OR = 1.41, 95% CI = 0.90 - 2.19).

Conclusion: Genes associated with vitamin D levels may play a protective role in the development of RA aAbs in FDRs of RA probands, perhaps through affecting lifelong vitamin D status. The GRS and the SEC23A SNP may be of interest for future investigation in pre-clinical RA. In contrast, these results do not support a similar association in SLE FDRs, suggesting other mechanisms involved in the relationship between vitamin D and SLE aAbs not assessed in this study.

Keywords: autoantibody negative (aAb-); autoantibody positive (aAb+); genetic risk score (GRS); rheumatoid arthritis (RA); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); vitamin D.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / genetics
  • Autoantibodies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / epidemiology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / genetics
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamins


  • Autoantibodies
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D