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Geographic tongue (GT) is a benign inflammatory disorder of unknown etiology. Epidemiology and histopathology in previous studies found that generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP) is a factor associated with GT, but the molecular mechanism remains obscure. To investigate the mechanism of GT, with and without GPP, three cohorts were recruited to conduct genotyping of IL36RN, which is the causative gene of GPP. In a family spanning three generations and diagnosed with only GT ("GT alone"), GT was caused by the c.115+6T>C/p.Arg10ArgfsX1 mutation in the IL36RN gene. An autosomal dominant inheritance pattern with incomplete penetrance was observed. In the cohort consisting of sporadic cases of "GT alone" (n = 48), significant associations between GT and three IL36RN variants (c.115+6T>C/p.Arg10ArgfsX1, c.169G>A/p.Val57Ile and c.29G>A/p.Arg10Gln) were shown. In the GPP patient cohort (n = 56) and GPP family member cohort (n = 67), a significant association between the c.115+6T>C mutation and the simultaneous presence of GPP and GT was observed when compared to the presence of GPP without GT (P < 0.05). Biopsies revealed similarities among GT patients with different genotypes (AA, Aa and aa), with the neutrophils prominently infiltrating the epidermis. Western-blot analysis showed that the expression ratio of IL-36Ra/IL-36γ in lesioned tongues with individuals harboring different genotypes (AA, Aa and aa, n = 3, respectively) decreased significantly compared to controls (n = 3). We describe the mechanism of GT for the first time: some cases of GT are caused by IL36RN mutations, while those lacking mutations are associated with an imbalance in expression between IL-36Ra and IL-36γ proteins in tongue tissue.


Jianying Liang, Peichen Huang, Huaguo Li, Jia Zhang, Cheng Ni, Yirong Wang, Jinwen Shen, Chunxiao Li, Lu Kang, Jie Chen, Hui Zhang, Zhen Wang, Zhen Zhang, Ming Li, Zhirong Yao. Mutations in IL36RN are associated with geographic tongue. Human genetics. 2017 Feb;136(2):241-252

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PMID: 27900482

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