Context: South Asian individuals are more prone to develop type 2 diabetes (T2D) coinciding with earlier complications than Europids. While inflammation plays a central role in the development and progression of T2D, this factor is still underexplored in South Asians. Objective: This work aimed to study whether circulating messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts of immune genes are different between South Asian compared with Europid patients with T2D. Methods: A secondary analysis was conducted of 2 randomized controlled trials of Dutch South Asian (n = 45; age: 55 ± 10 years, body mass index [BMI]: 29 ± 4 kg/m2) and Dutch Europid (n = 44; age: 60 ± 7 years, BMI: 32 ± 4 kg/m2) patients with T2D. Main outcome measures included mRNA transcripts of 182 immune genes (microfluidic quantitative polymerase chain reaction; Fluidigm Inc) in fasted whole-blood, ingenuity pathway analyses (Qiagen).
Results: South Asians, compared to Europids, had higher mRNA levels of B-cell markers (CD19, CD79A, CD79B, CR2, CXCR5, IGHD, MS4A1, PAX5; all fold change > 1.3, false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.008) and interferon (IFN)-signaling genes (CD274, GBP1, GBP2, GBP5, FCGR1A/B/CP, IFI16, IFIT3, IFITM1, IFITM3, TAP1; all FC > 1.2, FDR < 0.05). In South Asians, the IFN signaling pathway was the top canonical pathway (z score 2.6; P < .001) and this was accompanied by higher plasma IFN-γ levels (FC = 1.5, FDR = 0.01). Notably, the ethnic difference in gene expression was larger for women (20/182 [11%]) than men (2/182 [1%]). Conclusion: South Asian patients with T2D show a more activated IFN-signaling pathway compared to Europid patients with T2D, which is more pronounced in women than men. We speculate that a more activated IFN-signaling pathway may contribute to the more rapid progression of T2D in South Asian compared with Europid individuals.