Vasoactive intestinal peptide gene polymorphisms, associated with its serum levels, predict treatment requirements in early rheumatoid arthritis

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We previously reported that early arthritis (EA) patients with low vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) serum levels demonstrate a worse clinical disease course. In this study, we analysed whether variants in the VIP gene correlated with its serum levels and clinical EA parameters. The VIP gene was sequenced in patients with extremely high/low VIP levels, measured by enzyme immunoassay. Sixteen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were diferentially distributed between both groups, which were subsequently genotyped in two patients’ sets. We observed that patients with rs688136 CC genotype showed higher VIP levels in both discovery (n=91; p=0.033) and validation populations (n=131; p=0.007). This efect was attenuated by the presence of minor alleles rs35643203 and rs12201140, which showed a clear trend towards low VIP level association (p=0.118 and p=0.049, respectively). Functional studies with miR-205-5p, which has a target site in the 3′ UTR close to rs688136, revealed a miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanism explaining the higher VIP gene expression in homozygous patients. Moreover, patients with an rs688136 CC genotype and no minor alleles of the other polymorphisms required less treatment (p=0.009). We concluded that the identifcation of polymorphisms associated with VIP serum levels would complement the clinical assessment of the disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis patients.