A Promoter Variant Within the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Gene Is Associated with an Epithelial Barrier Defect in Smokers with Crohn's Disease.

Matthias Prager, Janine Büttner, Philip Grunert, David Ellinghaus, Carsten Büning
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Inflammatory bowel diseases
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Exon-intron boundaries and coding and promoter regions of AHR gene were sequenced (28 patients with inflammatory bowel disease; 4 healthy controls). Two identified variants (rs7796976 and rs2066853) were studied for an association with intestinal permeability (IP, oral sugar test) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (stratified according to the smoking status). AHR expression was analyzed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in colonic biopsies from patients with CD (n = 53). Case-control analysis including a genotype-phenotype correlation was performed for both variants (n = 767 patients with inflammatory bowel disease; n = 466 healthy controls).Sequencing identified a putative promoter variant (rs7796976) and a nonsynonymous variant (rs2066853; Arg554Lys) in AHR, both predicted to be functionally relevant. The major G-allele of rs7796976 increased the risk for disturbed IP (odds ratio 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-3.2) in CD but not ulcerative colitis. We observed an additive effect of the rs7796976 genotype and smoking on IP (P = 0.005), which was also shown for rs2066853 (P = 0.004; variants not linked). Both variants showed a genotype-dependent AHR expression in colonic biopsies of patients with CD. No overall association with either CD or ulcerative colitis was observed; however, the rs7796976 genotype and smoking increased the risk for the L4 phenotype in CD.Smoking worsens Crohn's disease (CD). The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcription factor that mediates the toxicity of dioxinlike chemicals. We hypothesized that AHR variants and smoking influence CD.Smoking and functionally relevant AHR variants increase IP in CD. Because AhR is known to mediate between smoking and inflammation, these variants might be involved in the deleterious effect of smoking on CD.