We analyzed the mechanism by which a Graves' disease-associated C/T polymorphism in the Kozak sequence of CD40 affects CD40 expression. CD40 expression levels on B cells in individuals with CT and TT genotypes were decreased by 13.3 and 39.4%, respectively, compared with the levels in CC genotypes (P = 0.012). Similarly, Rat-2 fibroblasts transfected with T-allele cDNA expressed 32.2% less CD40 compared with their C-allele-transfected counterparts (P = 0.004). Additionally, an in vitro transcription/translation system showed that the T-allele makes 15.5% less CD40 than the C-allele (P < 0.001), demonstrating that the effect of the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on CD40 expression is at the level of translation. However, the SNP did not affect transcription, because the mRNA levels of CD40, as measured by quantitative RT-PCR, were independent of genotype. Therefore, our results may suggest that the C allele of the CD40 Kozak SNP, which is associated with Graves' disease, could predispose to disease by increasing the efficiency of translation of CD40 mRNA.
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