The primary genetic risk factor in multiple sclerosis (MS) is the HLA-DRB1*1501 allele; however, much of the remaining genetic contribution to MS has yet to be elucidated. Several lines of evidence support a role for neuroendocrine system involvement in autoimmunity which may, in part, be genetically determined. Here, we comprehensively investigated variation within eight candidate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis genes and susceptibility to MS. A total of 326 SNPs were investigated in a discovery dataset of 1343 MS cases and 1379 healthy controls of European ancestry using a multi-analytical strategy. Random Forests, a supervised machine-learning algorithm, identified eight intronic SNPs within the corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor 1 or CRHR1 locus on 17q21.31 as important predictors of MS. On the basis of univariate analyses, six CRHR1 variants were associated with decreased risk for disease following a conservative correction for multiple tests. Independent replication was observed for CRHR1 in a large meta-analysis comprising 2624 MS cases and 7220 healthy controls of European ancestry. Results from a combined meta-analysis of all 3967 MS cases and 8599 controls provide strong evidence for the involvement of CRHR1 in MS. The strongest association was observed for rs242936 (OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.74-0.90, P = 9.7 × 10-5). Replicated CRHR1 variants appear to exist on a single associated haplotype. Further investigation of mechanisms involved in HPA axis regulation and response to stress in MS pathogenesis is warranted.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology