Objective: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is comprised of seven heterogeneous categories of chronic childhood arthritides. About 5% of children with JIA have rheumatoid factor (RF) positive arthritis, which phenotypically resembles adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our objective was to compare and contrast the genetics of RF-positive polyarticular JIA with RA, and selected other JIA categories, to more fully understand the pathophysiological relationships of inflammatory arthropathies.
Methods: RF-positive polyarticular JIA cases (n=340) and controls (n=14,412) were genotyped using the Immunochip array. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested for association using a logistic regression model adjusting for admixture proportions. Weighted genetic risk scores (wGRS) of published RA and JIA risk loci were calculated and their ability to predict RF-positive polyarticular JIA were compared.
Results: As expected, the HLA region was strongly associated with RF-positive polyarticular JIA (p=5.51x10-31). Nineteen of 44 RA risk loci and 6 of 27 oligoarticular/RF-negative polyarticular JIA risk loci were associated (p<0.05) with RF-positive polyarticular JIA. The RA wGRS predicted RF-positive polyarticular JIA (AUC=0.71) better than the oligoarticular/RF-negative polyarticular JIA wGRS (AUC=0.56). RF-positive polyarticular JIA was also genetically more similar to RA patients with age at onset <30 years compared to RA onset >70 years.
Conclusions: RF-positive polyarticular JIA is genetically more similar to adult RA than to the most common JIA categories and thus appears to be a childhood-onset presentation of autoantibody positive RA. These findings suggest common disease mechanisms, which could lead to novel therapeutic targets and shared treatment strategies.