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  • Evaluating the Performance of Fine-Mapping Strategies at Common Variant GWAS Loci.

    3 July 2018

    The growing availability of high-quality genomic annotation has increased the potential for mechanistic insights when the specific variants driving common genome-wide association signals are accurately localized. A range of fine-mapping strategies have been advocated, and specific successes reported, but the overall performance of such approaches, in the face of the extensive linkage disequilibrium that characterizes the human genome, is not well understood. Using simulations based on sequence data from the 1000 Genomes Project, we quantify the extent to which fine-mapping, here conducted using an approximate Bayesian approach, can be expected to lead to useful improvements in causal variant localization. We show that resolution is highly variable between loci, and that performance is severely degraded as the statistical power to detect association is reduced. We confirm that, where causal variants are shared between ancestry groups, further improvements in performance can be obtained in a trans-ethnic fine-mapping design. Finally, using empirical data from a recently published genome-wide association study for ankylosing spondylitis, we provide empirical confirmation of the behaviour of the approximate Bayesian approach and demonstrate that seven of twenty-six loci can be fine-mapped to fewer than ten variants.

  • An ankylosing spondylitis-associated genetic variant in the IL23R-IL12RB2 intergenic region modulates enhancer activity and is associated with increased Th1-cell differentiation.

    3 July 2018

    OBJECTIVES: To explore the functional basis for the association between ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IL23R-IL12RB2 intergenic region. METHODS: We performed conditional analysis on genetic association data and used epigenetic data on chromatin remodelling and transcription factor (TF) binding to identify the primary AS-associated IL23R-IL12RB2 intergenic SNP. Functional effects were tested in luciferase reporter assays in HEK293T cells and allele-specific TF binding was investigated by electrophoretic mobility gel shift assays. IL23R and IL12RB2 mRNA levels in CD4+ T cells were compared between cases homozygous for the AS-risk 'A' allele and the protective 'G' allele. The proportions of interleukin (IL)-17A+ and interferon (IFN)-γ+ CD4+ T-cells were measured by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and compared between these AS-risk and protective genotypes. RESULTS: Conditional analysis identified rs11209032 as the probable causal SNP within a 1.14 kb putative enhancer between IL23R and IL12RB2. Reduced luciferase activity was seen for the risk allele (p<0.001) and reduced H3K4me1 methylation observed in CD4+ T-cells from 'A/A' homozygotes (p=0.02). The binding of nuclear extract to the risk allele was decreased ∼3.5-fold compared with the protective allele (p<0.001). The proportion of IFN-γ+ CD4+ T-cells was increased in 'A/A' homozygotes (p=0.004), but neither IL23R nor IL12RB2 mRNA was affected. CONCLUSIONS: The rs11209032 SNP downstream of IL23R forms part of an enhancer, allelic variation of which may influence Th1-cell numbers. Homozygosity for the risk 'A' allele is associated with more IFN-γ-secreting (Th1) cells. Further work is necessary to explain the mechanisms for these important observations.

  • The genetic association of RUNX3 with ankylosing spondylitis can be explained by allele-specific effects on IRF4 recruitment that alter gene expression.

    3 July 2018

    OBJECTIVES: To identify the functional basis for the genetic association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), upstream of the RUNX3 promoter, with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). METHODS: We performed conditional analysis of genetic association data and used ENCODE data on chromatin remodelling and transcription factor (TF) binding sites to identify the primary AS-associated regulatory SNP in the RUNX3 region. The functional effects of this SNP were tested in luciferase reporter assays. Its effects on TF binding were investigated by electrophoretic mobility gel shift assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation. RUNX3 mRNA levels were compared in primary CD8+ T cells of AS risk and protective genotypes by real-time PCR. RESULTS: The association of the RUNX3 SNP rs4648889 with AS (p<7.6×10(-14)) was robust to conditioning on all other SNPs in this region. We identified a 2 kb putative regulatory element, upstream of RUNX3, containing rs4648889. In reporter gene constructs, the protective rs4648889 'G' allele increased luciferase activity ninefold but significantly less activity (4.3-fold) was seen with the AS risk 'A' allele (p≤0.01). The binding of Jurkat or CD8+ T-cell nuclear extracts to the risk allele was decreased and IRF4 recruitment was reduced. The AS-risk allele also affected H3K4Me1 histone methylation and associated with an allele-specific reduction in RUNX3 mRNA (p<0.05). CONCLUSION: We identified a regulatory region upstream of RUNX3 that is modulated by rs4648889. The risk allele decreases TF binding (including IRF4) and reduces reporter activity and RUNX3 expression. These findings may have important implications for understanding the role of T cells and other immune cells in AS.

  • Association study of genes related to bone formation and resorption and the extent of radiographic change in ankylosing spondylitis.

    3 July 2018

    OBJECTIVE: To identify genetic associations with severity of radiographic damage in ankylosing spondylitis (AS). METHOD: We studied 1537 AS cases of European descent; all fulfilled the modified New York Criteria. Radiographic severity was assessed from digitised lateral radiographs of the cervical and lumbar spine using the modified Stoke Ankylosing Spondylitis Spinal Score (mSASSS). A two-phase genotyping design was used. In phase 1, 498 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in 688 cases; these were selected to capture >90% of the common haplotypic variation in the exons, exon-intron boundaries, and 5 kb flanking DNA in the 5' and 3' UTR of 74 genes involved in anabolic or catabolic bone pathways. In phase 2, 15 SNPs exhibiting p<0.05 were genotyped in a further cohort of 830 AS cases; results were analysed both separately and in combination with the discovery phase data. Association was tested by contingency tables after separating the samples into 'mild' and 'severe' groups, defined as the bottom and top 40% by mSASSS, adjusted for gender and disease duration. RESULTS: Experiment-wise association was observed with the SNP rs8092336 (combined OR 0.32, p=1.2×10(-5)), which lies within RANK (receptor activator of NFκB), a gene involved in osteoclastogenesis, and in the interaction between T cells and dendritic cells. Association was also found with the SNP rs1236913 in PTGS1 (prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 1, cyclooxygenase 1), giving an OR of 0.53 (p=2.6×10(-3)). There was no observed association between radiographic severity and HLA-B*27. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support roles for bone resorption and prostaglandins pathways in the osteoproliferative changes in AS.

  • Identification of multiple risk variants for ankylosing spondylitis through high-density genotyping of immune-related loci.

    3 July 2018

    Ankylosing spondylitis is a common, highly heritable inflammatory arthritis affecting primarily the spine and pelvis. In addition to HLA-B*27 alleles, 12 loci have previously been identified that are associated with ankylosing spondylitis in populations of European ancestry, and 2 associated loci have been identified in Asians. In this study, we used the Illumina Immunochip microarray to perform a case-control association study involving 10,619 individuals with ankylosing spondylitis (cases) and 15,145 controls. We identified 13 new risk loci and 12 additional ankylosing spondylitis-associated haplotypes at 11 loci. Two ankylosing spondylitis-associated regions have now been identified encoding four aminopeptidases that are involved in peptide processing before major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I presentation. Protective variants at two of these loci are associated both with reduced aminopeptidase function and with MHC class I cell surface expression.

  • Analysis of five chronic inflammatory diseases identifies 27 new associations and highlights disease-specific patterns at shared loci.

    3 July 2018

    We simultaneously investigated the genetic landscape of ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and ulcerative colitis to investigate pleiotropy and the relationship between these clinically related diseases. Using high-density genotype data from more than 86,000 individuals of European ancestry, we identified 244 independent multidisease signals, including 27 new genome-wide significant susceptibility loci and 3 unreported shared risk loci. Complex pleiotropy was supported when contrasting multidisease signals with expression data sets from human, rat and mouse together with epigenetic and expressed enhancer profiles. The comorbidities among the five immune diseases were best explained by biological pleiotropy rather than heterogeneity (a subgroup of cases genetically identical to those with another disease, possibly owing to diagnostic misclassification, molecular subtypes or excessive comorbidity). In particular, the strong comorbidity between primary sclerosing cholangitis and inflammatory bowel disease is likely the result of a unique disease, which is genetically distinct from classical inflammatory bowel disease phenotypes.