Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a multifactorial disease with complex genetic etiology, about which little is known. Here, we apply a two-stage procedure in which a quick first-stage analysis was used to narrow down targets for a more thorough and detailed testing for gene × gene interaction. Potentially interesting regions were first identified by testing for major gene effects using non-parametric linkage methods. To select regions of interest, we first tested for linkage to three different RA-related traits one at a time: RA affection status and the quantitative phenotypes rheumatoid factor IgM and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide levels. These linkage analyses identified regions on chromosomes 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 18, 19, and 20. We subsequently analyzed the selected regions in a pairwise manner to detect gene × gene interactions influencing RA using a recently developed two-dimensional linkage method. We found evidence of interacting loci on chromosomes 5, 6, and 18
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