Interleukin IL-17 is a proinflammatory cytokine that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of various autoimmune diseases. The single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs2275913, in the promoter region of the IL-17 gene is associated with susceptibility to ulcerative colitis. When we examined the impact of rs2275913 in a cohort consisting of 438 pairs of patients and their unrelated donors transplanted through the Japan Marrow Donor Program, the donor IL-17 197A allele was found to be associated with a higher risk of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD; hazard ratio [HR], 1.46; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00 to 2.13; P = 0.05). Next, we investigated the functional relevance of the rs2275913 SNP. In vitro stimulated T cells from healthy individuals possessing the 197A allele produced significantly more IL-17 than those without the 197A allele. In a gene reporter assay, the 197A allele construct induced higher luciferase activity than the 197G allele, and the difference was higher in the presence of T cell receptor activation and was abrogated by cyclosporine treatment. Moreover, the 197A allele displayed a higher affinity for the nuclear factor activated T cells (NFAT), a critical transcription factor involved in IL-17 regulation. These findings substantiate the functional relevance of the rs2275913 polymorphism and indicate that the higher IL-17 secretion by individuals with the 197A allele likely accounts for their increased risk for acute GVHD and certain autoimmune diseases.
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