Association Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Corticosteroid-Binding Globulin Gene ALA SER224 Polymorphism
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Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by idiopathic fatigue of greater than 6 months' duration with postexertional exacerbation and many other symptoms. A trend toward relative hypocortisolism is described in CFS. Twin and family studies indicate a substantial genetic etiologic component to CFS. Recently, severe corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) gene mutations have been associated with CFS in isolated kindreds. Human leukocyte elastase, an enzyme important in CBG catabolism at inflammatory sites, is reported to be elevated in CFS. We hypothesized that CBG gene polymorphisms may act as a genetic risk factor for CFS. A total of 248 patients with CFS defined by Centers for Disease Control criteria, and 248 controls were recruited. Sequencing and restriction enzyme testing of the CBG gene coding region allowed detection of severe CBG gene mutations and a common exon 3 polymorphism (c.825(G)rarrT, Ala-Ser224). Plasma CBG levels were measured in 125 CFS patients and 198 controls by radioimmunoassay. Total and free (calculated and measured) cortisol levels were ascertained in single samples between 8-10 a.m. The age of onset (mid 30s) and gender ratio (2.2:1, female:male) of the patients were similar to those reported in U.S. epidemiologic studies. A trend toward a preponderance of serine224 homozygosity among the CFS patients was noted, compared with controls (?2 = 5.31, P = 0.07). Immunoreactive-CBG (IR-CBG) levels were higher in Serine/Alanine than Ala/Ala subjects and higher again in Ser/Ser subjects, this effect was strongest in controls; Ser/Ser: 46.1 ᠱ.8 (n = 31, P = 0.03) vs. Ser/Ala: 42.4 ᠱ.0 (n = 56, P = 0.05) vs. Ala/Ala: 40.8 ᠱ.7 姯mL (n = 21). Despite higher CBG levels, there was a nonsignificant trend toward lower total and free plasma cortisol in serine allele positive patients, total cortisol: Ser/Ser: 13.3 ᠱ.4 (n = 34) vs. Ser/Ala: 14.0 ᠰ.7 (n = 66) vs. Ala/Ala: 15.4 ᠱ.0 (n = 23). Homozygosity for the serine allele of the CBG gene may predispose to CFS, perhaps due to an effect on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function related to altered CBG-cortisol transport function or immune-cortisol interactions.