Gene expression signatures can stratify patients with heterogeneous diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), yet understanding the contributions of ancestral background to this heterogeneity is not well understood. We hypothesized that ancestry would significantly influence gene expression signatures and measured 34 gene modules in 1566 SLE patients of African ancestry (AA), European ancestry (EA), or Native American ancestry (NAA). Healthy subject ancestry-specific gene expression provided the transcriptomic background upon which the SLE patient signatures were built. Although standard therapy affected every gene signature and significantly increased myeloid cell signatures, logistic regression analysis determined that ancestral background significantly changed 23 of 34 gene signatures. Additionally, the strongest association to gene expression changes was found with autoantibodies, and this also had etiology in ancestry: the AA predisposition to have both RNP and dsDNA autoantibodies compared with EA predisposition to have only anti-dsDNA. A machine learning approach was used to determine a gene signature characteristic to distinguish AA SLE and was most influenced by genes characteristic of the perturbed B cell axis in AA SLE patients.
Michelle D. Catalina, Prathyusha Bachali, Anthony E. Yeo, Nicholas S. Geraci, Michelle A. Petri, Amrie C. Grammer, Peter E. Lipsky