Background and Aims: The role of the interleukin (IL)-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) in predisposing an individual to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is controversial. This study aimed to determine the association between intron 2 IL-1ra polymorphism and IBD by performing a multiethnic case-control study and to assess its functional significance. Methods: A total of 236 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), 196 patients with Crohn's disease (CD), and 338 ethnically matched control patients treated at LAC-USC and Cedars-Sinai Medical Centers and the University of Milan Medical Center were genotyped for a variable length polymorphism in intron 2 of the IL-1ra gene (IL-1RN). Total IL-1ra protein production rates in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were correlated with carriage of allele 2 of the IL-1RN gene (IL-1RN*2). Results: In the LAC-USC group, UC patients (n = 60) had an increased frequency of at least 1 copy of IL-1RN*2 compared with controls (n = 129) (70% vs. 33%; P <0.01; odds ratio [OR], 4.7). The frequency of IL-1RN*2 carriage in the Cedars-Sinai group was 59% in UC, 45% in CD, and 42% in controls (P <0.01; OR, 2.0). A significant difference was observed only in the Jewish subgroup (P = 0.003; OR, 5.0). The association was not detected in UC or CD patients treated at the University of Milan. The ORs of 4.7 and 5.0 appear to be the highest reported in any UC population for any genetic markers. Further, carriage of IL-1RN*2 was associated with decreased production of total IL-1ra protein in cultured PBMCs from both UC patients and controls. Conclusions: These results provide further evidence that IL-1ra is important in the predisposition to UC, there may be genetic or pathogenetic heterogeneity between different ethnic groups, and UC and CD are genetically distinct diseases.
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