The genetic makeup of an individual strongly influences the risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The identification of genes that predispose an individual to SLE will lead to earlier and better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention.
To this end, the International Consortium on the Genetics of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLEGEN) was formed in 2004 and is composed of lupus genetics researchers who have agreed to pool their knowledge and resources to search for genes that predispose to lupus. To date, over 60 different researchers and research groups from around the world have participated in the SLEGEN consortium or used the SLEGEN consortium data and analysis resources. Numerous research groups have contributed DNA samples for genotyping, including samples from African American, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, and Caucasian ethnicities. These data have been genotyped at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Broad Institute and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and have been analyzed for association with SLE, age of SLE onset and SLE complications (e.g., renal involvement) by the Data Analysis and Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University Health Sciences. SLEGEN was among the first applications of the 317,000 Illumina single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip technologies (Thomas et al. 2005; Am J Hum Genet 77:337-345). Numerous publications have resulted from this collaboration, including the important SLEGEN paper in Nature Genetics that identified multiple lupus predisposing loci (Nat Genet. 2008;40(2):204-10). Current research includes completing genome-wide association and large-scale replication studies for African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian ethnicities. In addition, research is focused on the exploration of the genes identified as SLE risk genes, and understanding SLE genetics relative to autoimmune disease genetics in general.