Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common inflammatory skin disease resulting from the interplay between environmental, immunological and genetic factors. In our study, we investigated the role of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at 5'-UTR of DEFB1 gene, encoding for the human beta defensin-1, on the susceptibility to develop AD in a group of Brazilian children and adolescents. Methods: Three SNPs, -20 G/A (rs11362), -44 C/G (rs1800972), and -52 G/A (rs1799946) at 5'-UTR of DEFB1 gene were genotyped in two groups of children and adolescents, one affected by AD (96 subjects), the other healthy (191 individuals), from northeast Brazil. Results: -44 C/G frequencies were comparable between the two groups. The -20 GG genotype was more frequent in AD subjects than in healthy controls; the -52 GG, conversely, was more frequent in healthy controls than in AD. However, both these differences did not reach statistical significance. Also, association between SNPs and AD severity has been shown. The analysis of DEFB1 haplotypes did not highlight any association of the three SNPs with AD development or disease severity. Conclusions: Our results seem to exclude a role for the -44 C/G DEFB1 SNPs on the pathogenesis and severity of AD, while for the -20 C/G and -52 G/A, even if not statistically significant, we evidenced a slight trend for susceptibility (-20 GG) and protection (-52 GG) for the development of AD. However, as controversial findings have been reported in the literature, the role of DEFB1 in the development of AD and in the severity of the phenotype deserves further investigation.
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