Objective. To determine if polymorphisms of the macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) gene are associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Methods. Denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography was used to screen the MIF gene in 32 UK Caucasian controls and 88 UK Caucasian JIA patients. Ninety-two healthy UK Caucasian controls were then genotyped for each of the polymorphic positions identified. A panel of 526 UK Caucasian JIA patients and 259 UK Caucasian controls were subsequently genotyped for a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) identified in the 5′-flanking region of the gene, using SNaPshot ddNTP primer extension and capillary electrophoresis. The functional significance of this polymorphism was also studied using luciferase-based reporter gene assays in human T lymphoblast and epithelial cell lines. Results. A tetranucleotide repeat CATT(5-7) beginning at nucleotide position -794 and 3 SNPs at positions -173 (G to C), +254 (T to C), and +656 (C to G) of the MIF gene were identified. No JIA-specific mutations were found. Allele and genotype frequencies differed significantly between the controls and the JIA patients for the MIF-173 polymorphism. Individuals possessing a MIF-173*C allele had an increased risk of JIA (34.8% versus 21.6%) (odds ratio 1.9, 95% confidence interval 1.4-2.7; P = 0.0002). Furthermore, the MIF-173* G and C variants resulted in altered expression of MIF in a cell type-specific manner. Serum levels of MIF were also significantly higher in individuals who carried a MIF-173*C allele (P = 0.04). Conclusion. The -173-MIF*C allele confers increased risk of susceptibility to JIA. Our data suggest a cell type-specific regulation of MIF, which may be central to understanding its role in inflammation.
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