Epigenomics and transcriptomics of systemic sclerosis CD4+T cells reveal long-range dysregulation of key inflammatory pathways mediated by disease-associated susceptibility loci

Li T; Ortiz-Fernández L; Andrés-León E; Ciudad L; Javierre BM; López-Isac E; Guillén-Del-Castillo A; Simeón-Aznar CP; Ballestar E; Martin J.


Background Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a genetically complex autoimmune disease mediated by the interplay between genetic and epigenetic factors in a multitude of immune cells, with CD4+ T lymphocytes as one of the principle drivers of pathogenesis. Methods DNA samples exacted from CD4+ T cells of 48 SSc patients and 16 healthy controls were hybridized on MethylationEPIC BeadChip array. In parallel, gene expression was interrogated by hybridizing total RNA on Clariom (TM) S array. Downstream bioinformatics analyses were performed to identify correlating differentially methylated CpG positions (DMPs) and differentially expressed genes (DEGs), which were then confirmed utilizing previously published promoter capture Hi-C (PCHi-C) data. Results We identified 9112 and 3929 DMPs and DEGs, respectively. These DMPs and DEGs are enriched in functional categories related to inflammation and T cell biology. Furthermore, correlation analysis identified 17,500 possible DMP-DEG interaction pairs within a window of 5 Mb, and utilizing PCHi-C data, we observed that 212 CD4+ T cell-specific pairs of DMP-DEG also formed part of three-dimensional promoter-enhancer networks, potentially involving CTCF. Finally, combining PCHi-C data with SSc GWAS data, we identified four important SSc-associated susceptibility loci,TNIP1(rs3792783),GSDMB(rs9303277),IL12RB1(rs2305743), andCSK(rs1378942), that could potentially interact with DMP-DEG pairs cg17239269-ANXA6, cg19458020-CCR7, cg10808810-JUND, and cg11062629-ULK3, respectively. Conclusion Our study unveils a potential link between genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptional deregulation in CD4+ T cells of SSc patients, providing a novel integrated view of molecular components driving SSc pathogenesis.

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