A common haplotype of the IL-31 gene influencing gene expression is associated with nonatopic eczema


  • F. Schulz
  • I. Marenholz
  • R. Foelster-Holst
  • C. Chen
  • A. Sternjak
  • R. Baumgrass
  • J. Esparza-Gordillo
  • C. Grueber
  • R. Nickel
  • S. Schreiber
  • M. Stoll
  • M. Kurek
  • F. Rueschendorf
  • N. Huebner
  • U. Wahn
  • Y.A. Lee


  • Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology


  • J Allergy Clin Immunol 120 (5): 1097-1102


  • BACKGROUND: IL-31 is a novel cytokine that, when overexpressed in transgenic mice, induces severe itching dermatitis resembling human eczema. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to evaluate the importance of polymorphisms in the human IL-31 gene (IL31) in the genetic susceptibility to eczema. METHODS: We sequenced the entire IL-31 gene, including the promoter region, and determined the haplotype structure. Single nucleotide polymorphisms tagging the main haplotypes were genotyped in 3 independent European populations comprising 690 affected families. An association analysis of IL31 gene variants with atopic and nonatopic eczema was performed. RESULTS: We found significant association of a common IL31 haplotype with the nonatopic type of eczema in all 3 study populations (combined P = 4.5 x 10(-5)). Analysis of PBMCs in healthy individuals revealed a strong induction IL31 mRNA expression on stimulation with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 that was 3.8-fold higher in individuals homozygous for the risk haplotype (AA) in contrast to non-A haplotype carriers, suggesting that altered regulation of IL-31 gene expression is the disease-causing factor. CONCLUSION: Our results lend strong support to an important role of IL-31 in the pathogenesis of nonatopic eczema. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: This study presents the first genetic risk factor for the nonatopic type of eczema and indicates a primary role of IL-31-induced pruritus in the initiation of this disease, thus proposing a new target for the prevention and therapy of eczema.