Background/aims: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease have well-recognized familial tendencies, but the genetic basis of this clinical observation remains unknown. The cytokine interleukin-1 receptor antagonist is a potent anti-inflammatory protein that can prevent immune-mediated bowel inflammation in animals. We have previously characterized a polymorphism within the gene for this cytokine and others in the genes for the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin 1 alpha, interleukin 1 beta, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. The aim of this study was to determine whether inflammatory bowel disease was associated with particular alleles of these polymorphic cytokine genes.
Methods: The allelic frequencies of these polymorphic cytokine genes were determined in patients with ulcerative colitis (n = 113), Crohn's disease (n = 78), and healthy controls (n = 261).
Results: Allele 2 of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist was significantly over-represented in the ulcerative colitis patients: 35% versus 24% in controls (P = 0.007). Carriage of at least one copy of this allele gave an odds ratio of 2.0 for ulcerative colitis compared with controls. This association with allele 2 of interleukin 1 receptor antagonist was greatest in patients with total colitis and was not seen in Crohn's disease. There were no associations between UC and any of the other cytokine genes examined.
Conclusions: This observation provides evidence that interleukin-1 receptor antagonist may have a role in determining the genetic susceptibility to and pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis.