A multiple sclerosis-associated variant of CBLB links genetic risk with type I IFN function
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the CNS, and autoreactive CD4(+) T cells are considered important for its pathogenesis. The etiology of MS involves a complex genetic trait and environmental triggers that include viral infections, particularly the EBV. Among the risk alleles that have repeatedly been identified by genome-wide association studies, three are located near the Casitas B-lineage lymphoma proto-oncogene b gene (CBLB). The CBLB protein (CBL-B) is a key regulator of peripheral immune tolerance by limiting T cell activation and expansion and hence T cell-mediated autoimmunity through its ubiquitin E3-ligase activity. In this study, we show that CBL-B expression is reduced in CD4(+) T cells from relapsing-remitting MS (RR-MS) patients during relapse. The MS risk-related single nucleotide polymorphism of CBLB rs12487066 is associated with diminished CBL-B expression levels and alters the effects of type I IFNs on human CD4(+) T cell proliferation. Mechanistically, the CBLB rs12487066 risk allele mediates increased binding of the transcription factor C/EBPb and reduced CBL-B expression in human CD4(+) T cells. Our data suggest a role of the CBLB rs12487066 variant in the interactions of a genetic risk factor and IFN function during viral infections in MS.