Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and subsequent dense-genotyping of associated loci identified over a hundred single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) variants associated with the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes (T1D), and celiac disease (CeD). Immunological and genetic studies suggest a role for CD4-positive effector memory T (CD+ TEM) cells in the pathogenesis of these diseases. To elucidate mechanisms of autoimmune disease alleles, we investigated molecular phenotypes in CD4+ effector memory T cells potentially affected by these variants. In a cohort of genotyped healthy individuals, we isolated high purity CD4+ TEM cells from peripheral blood, then assayed relative abundance, proliferation upon T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation, and the transcription of 215 genes within disease loci before and after stimulation. We identified 46 genes regulated by cis-acting expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL), the majority of which we detected in stimulated cells. Eleven of the 46 genes with eQTLs were previously undetected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Of 96 risk alleles of RA, T1D, and/or CeD in densely genotyped loci, eleven overlapped cis-eQTLs, of which five alleles completely explained the respective signals. A non-coding variant, rs389862A, increased proliferative response (p=4.75 × 10-8). In addition, baseline expression of seventeen genes in resting cells reliably predicted proliferative response after TCR stimulation. Strikingly, however, there was no evidence that risk alleles modulated CD4+ TEM abundance or proliferation. Our study underscores the power of examining molecular phenotypes in relevant cells and conditions for understanding pathogenic mechanisms of disease variants.
Previous studies have emphasized ethnically heterogeneous human leukocyte antigen (HLA) classical allele associations to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk. We fine-mapped RA risk alleles within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in 2782 seropositive RA cases and 4315 controls of Asian descent. We applied imputation to determine genotypes for eight class I and II HLA genes to Asian populations for the first time using a newly constructed pan-Asian reference panel. First, we empirically measured high imputation accuracy in Asian samples. Then we observed the most significant association in HLA-DRβ1 at amino acid position 13, located outside the classical shared epitope (Pomnibus = 6.9 × 10(-135)). The individual residues at position 13 have relative effects that are consistent with published effects in European populations (His > Phe > Arg > Tyr ≅ Gly > Ser)--but the observed effects in Asians are generally smaller. Applying stepwise conditional analysis, we identified additional independent associations at positions 57 (conditional Pomnibus = 2.2 × 10(-33)) and 74 (conditional Pomnibus = 1.1 × 10(-8)). Outside of HLA-DRβ1, we observed independent effects for amino acid polymorphisms within HLA-B (Asp9, conditional P = 3.8 × 10(-6)) and HLA-DPβ1 (Phe9, conditional P = 3.0 × 10(-5)) concordant with European populations. Our trans-ethnic HLA fine-mapping study reveals that (i) a common set of amino acid residues confer shared effects in European and Asian populations and (ii) these same effects can explain ethnically heterogeneous classical allelic associations (e.g. HLA-DRB1*09:01) due to allele frequency differences between populations. Our study illustrates the value of high-resolution imputation for fine-mapping causal variants in the MHC.
UNLABELLED: We created a fast, robust and general C+ + implementation of a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) set enrichment algorithm to identify cell types, tissues and pathways affected by risk loci. It tests trait-associated genomic loci for enrichment of specificity to conditions (cell types, tissues and pathways). We use a non-parametric statistical approach to compute empirical P-values by comparison with null SNP sets. As a proof of concept, we present novel applications of our method to four sets of genome-wide significant SNPs associated with red blood cell count, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and HDL cholesterol. AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION: http://broadinstitute.org/mpg/snpsea. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.