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The genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders is characterized by a large number of small-effect variants located primarily in non-coding regions, suggesting that the underlying causal effects may influence disease risk by modulating gene expression. We provide comprehensive analyses using transcriptome data from an unprecedented collection of tissues to gain pathophysiological insights into the role of the brain, neuroendocrine factors (adrenal gland) and gastrointestinal systems (colon) in psychiatric disorders. In each tissue, we perform PrediXcan analysis and identify trait-associated genes for schizophrenia (n associations = 499; n unique genes = 275), bipolar disorder (n associations = 17; n unique genes = 13), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (n associations = 19; n unique genes = 12) and broad depression (n associations = 41; n unique genes = 31). Importantly, both PrediXcan and summary-data-based Mendelian randomization/heterogeneity in dependent instruments analyses suggest potentially causal genes in non-brain tissues, showing the utility of these tissues for mapping psychiatric disease genetic predisposition. Our analyses further highlight the importance of joint tissue approaches as 76% of the genes were detected only in difficult-to-acquire tissues.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than 170 breast cancer susceptibility loci. Here we hypothesize that some risk-associated variants might act in non-breast tissues, specifically adipose tissue and immune cells from blood and spleen. Using expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) reported in these tissues, we identify 26 previously unreported, likely target genes of overall breast cancer risk variants, and 17 for estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer, several with a known immune function. We determine the directional effect of gene expression on disease risk measured based on single and multiple eQTL. In addition, using a gene-based test of association that considers eQTL from multiple tissues, we identify seven (and four) regions with variants associated with overall (and ER-negative) breast cancer risk, which were not reported in previous GWAS. Further investigation of the function of the implicated genes in breast and immune cells may provide insights into the etiology of breast cancer.
Transcriptomic imputation approaches combine eQTL reference panels with large-scale genotype data in order to test associations between disease and gene expression. These genic associations could elucidate signals in complex genome-wide association study (GWAS) loci and may disentangle the role of different tissues in disease development. We used the largest eQTL reference panel for the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to create a set of gene expression predictors and demonstrate their utility. We applied DLPFC and 12 GTEx-brain predictors to 40,299 schizophrenia cases and 65,264 matched controls for a large transcriptomic imputation study of schizophrenia. We identified 413 genic associations across 13 brain regions. Stepwise conditioning identified 67 non-MHC genes, of which 14 did not fall within previous GWAS loci. We identified 36 significantly enriched pathways, including hexosaminidase-A deficiency, and multiple porphyric disorder pathways. We investigated developmental expression patterns among the 67 non-MHC genes and identified specific groups of pre- and postnatal expression.
We apply integrative approaches to expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) from 44 tissues from the Genotype-Tissue Expression project and genome-wide association study data. About 60% of known trait-associated loci are in linkage disequilibrium with a cis-eQTL, over half of which were not found in previous large-scale whole blood studies. Applying polygenic analyses to metabolic, cardiovascular, anthropometric, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative traits, we find that eQTLs are significantly enriched for trait associations in relevant pathogenic tissues and explain a substantial proportion of the heritability (40-80%). For most traits, tissue-shared eQTLs underlie a greater proportion of trait associations, although tissue-specific eQTLs have a greater contribution to some traits, such as blood pressure. By integrating information from biological pathways with eQTL target genes and applying a gene-based approach, we validate previously implicated causal genes and pathways, and propose new variant and gene associations for several complex traits, which we replicate in the UK BioBank and BioVU.
Genome-wide association analysis advanced understanding of blood pressure (BP), a major risk factor for vascular conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Accounting for smoking behavior may help identify BP loci and extend our knowledge of its genetic architecture. We performed genome-wide association meta-analyses of systolic and diastolic BP incorporating gene-smoking interactions in 610,091 individuals. Stage 1 analysis examined ∼18.8 million SNPs and small insertion/deletion variants in 129,913 individuals from four ancestries (European, African, Asian, and Hispanic) with follow-up analysis of promising variants in 480,178 additional individuals from five ancestries. We identified 15 loci that were genome-wide significant (p < 5 × 10) in stage 1 and formally replicated in stage 2. A combined stage 1 and 2 meta-analysis identified 66 additional genome-wide significant loci (13, 35, and 18 loci in European, African, and trans-ancestry, respectively). A total of 56 known BP loci were also identified by our results (p < 5 × 10). Of the newly identified loci, ten showed significant interaction with smoking status, but none of them were replicated in stage 2. Several loci were identified in African ancestry, highlighting the importance of genetic studies in diverse populations. The identified loci show strong evidence for regulatory features and support shared pathophysiology with cardiometabolic and addiction traits. They also highlight a role in BP regulation for biological candidates such as modulators of vascular structure and function (CDKN1B, BCAR1-CFDP1, PXDN, EEA1), ciliopathies (SDCCAG8, RPGRIP1L), telomere maintenance (TNKS, PINX1, AKTIP), and central dopaminergic signaling (MSRA, EBF2).
Copyright © 2018 American Society of Human Genetics. All rights reserved.
A major challenge in evaluating the contribution of rare variants to complex disease is identifying enough copies of the rare alleles to permit informative statistical analysis. To investigate the contribution of rare variants to the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and related traits, we performed deep whole-genome analysis of 1,034 members of 20 large Mexican-American families with high prevalence of T2D. If rare variants of large effect accounted for much of the diabetes risk in these families, our experiment was powered to detect association. Using gene expression data on 21,677 transcripts for 643 pedigree members, we identified evidence for large-effect rare-variant -expression quantitative trait loci that could not be detected in population studies, validating our approach. However, we did not identify any rare variants of large effect associated with T2D, or the related traits of fasting glucose and insulin, suggesting that large-effect rare variants account for only a modest fraction of the genetic risk of these traits in this sample of families. Reliable identification of large-effect rare variants will require larger samples of extended pedigrees or different study designs that further enrich for such variants.
Characterization of the molecular function of the human genome and its variation across individuals is essential for identifying the cellular mechanisms that underlie human genetic traits and diseases. The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project aims to characterize variation in gene expression levels across individuals and diverse tissues of the human body, many of which are not easily accessible. Here we describe genetic effects on gene expression levels across 44 human tissues. We find that local genetic variation affects gene expression levels for the majority of genes, and we further identify inter-chromosomal genetic effects for 93 genes and 112 loci. On the basis of the identified genetic effects, we characterize patterns of tissue specificity, compare local and distal effects, and evaluate the functional properties of the genetic effects. We also demonstrate that multi-tissue, multi-individual data can be used to identify genes and pathways affected by human disease-associated variation, enabling a mechanistic interpretation of gene regulation and the genetic basis of disease.
The impact of inherited genetic variation on gene expression in humans is well-established. The majority of known expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) impact expression of local genes (-eQTLs). More research is needed to identify effects of genetic variation on distant genes (-eQTLs) and understand their biological mechanisms. One common -eQTLs mechanism is "mediation" by a local () transcript. Thus, mediation analysis can be applied to genome-wide SNP and expression data in order to identify transcripts that are "-mediators" of -eQTLs, including those "-hubs" involved in regulation of many -genes. Identifying such mediators helps us understand regulatory networks and suggests biological mechanisms underlying -eQTLs, both of which are relevant for understanding susceptibility to complex diseases. The multitissue expression data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) program provides a unique opportunity to study -mediation across human tissue types. However, the presence of complex hidden confounding effects in biological systems can make mediation analyses challenging and prone to confounding bias, particularly when conducted among diverse samples. To address this problem, we propose a new method: Genomic Mediation analysis with Adaptive Confounding adjustment (GMAC). It enables the search of a very large pool of variables, and adaptively selects potential confounding variables for each mediation test. Analyses of simulated data and GTEx data demonstrate that the adaptive selection of confounders by GMAC improves the power and precision of mediation analysis. Application of GMAC to GTEx data provides new insights into the observed patterns of -hubs and -eQTL regulation across tissue types.
© 2017 Yang et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Evidence suggests European American (EA) women have two- to five-fold increased odds of having pelvic organ prolapse (POP) when compared with African American (AA) women. However, the role of genetic ancestry in relation to POP risk is not clear. Here we evaluate the association between genetic ancestry and POP in AA women from the Women's Health Initiative Hormone Therapy trial. Women with grade 1 or higher classification, and grade 2 or higher classification for uterine prolapse, cystocele or rectocele at baseline or during follow-up were considered to have any POP (N = 805) and moderate/severe POP (N = 156), respectively. Women with at least two pelvic exams with no indication for POP served as controls (N = 344). We performed case-only, and case-control admixture-mapping analyses using multiple logistic regression while adjusting for age, BMI, parity and global ancestry. We evaluated the association between global ancestry and POP using multiple logistic regression. European ancestry at the individual level was not associated with POP risk. Case-only and case-control local ancestry analyses identified two ancestry-specific loci that may be associated with POP. One locus (Chromosome 15q26.2) achieved empirically-estimated statistical significance and was associated with decreased POP odds (considering grade ≥2 POP) with each unit increase in European ancestry (OR: 0.35; 95% CI: 0.30, 0.57; p-value = 1.48x10-5). This region includes RGMA, a potent regulator of the BMP family of genes. The second locus (Chromosome 1q42.1-q42.3) was associated with increased POP odds with each unit increase in European ancestry (Odds ratio [OR]: 1.69; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.28, 2.22; p-value = 1.93x10-4). Although this region did not reach statistical significance after considering multiple comparisons, it includes potentially relevant genes including TBCE, and ACTA1. Unique non-overlapping European and African ancestry-specific susceptibility loci may be associated with increased POP risk.
Atrial fibrillation affects more than 33 million people worldwide and increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and death. Fourteen genetic loci have been associated with atrial fibrillation in European and Asian ancestry groups. To further define the genetic basis of atrial fibrillation, we performed large-scale, trans-ancestry meta-analyses of common and rare variant association studies. The genome-wide association studies (GWAS) included 17,931 individuals with atrial fibrillation and 115,142 referents; the exome-wide association studies (ExWAS) and rare variant association studies (RVAS) involved 22,346 cases and 132,086 referents. We identified 12 new genetic loci that exceeded genome-wide significance, implicating genes involved in cardiac electrical and structural remodeling. Our results nearly double the number of known genetic loci for atrial fibrillation, provide insights into the molecular basis of atrial fibrillation, and may facilitate the identification of new potential targets for drug discovery.