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ABSTRACT Objectives To investigate the functional consequences of the single nucleotide polymorphism rs4648889 in a putative enhancer upstream of the RUNX3 promoter strongly associated with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Methods The effects of rs4648889 on transcription factor (TF) binding were tested by DNA pull-down and quantitative mass spectrometry. The results were validated by electrophoretic mobility gel shift assays (EMSA), Western blot (WB) analysis of the pulled-down eluates, and chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP)-qPCR. Results Several TFs showed differential allelic binding to a 50bp DNA probe spanning rs4648889 . Binding was increased to the AS-risk A allele for IKZF3 ( aiolos ) in nuclear extracts from CD8+ T-cells (3.7-fold, p<0.03) and several components of the NUcleosome Remodeling Deacetylase (NuRD) complex, including Chromodomain-Helicase-DNA-binding protein 4 (3.6-fold, p<0.05) and Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 4 (4.1-fold, p<0.02). In contrast, binding of interferon regulatory factor (IRF) 5 was increased to the AS-protective G allele. These results were confirmed by EMSA, WB and ChIP-qPCR. Conclusions The association of AS with rs4648889 most likely results from its influence on the binding of this enhancer-like region to TFs, including IRF5, IKZF3 and members of the NuRD complex. Further investigation of these factors and RUNX3-related pathways may reveal important new therapeutic possibilities in AS.

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