Gene-based analysis of regulatory variants identifies 4 putative novel asthma risk genes related to nucleotide synthesis and signaling

Manuel A.R. Ferreira*, Rick Jansen, Gonneke Willemsen, Brenda Penninx, Lisa M. Bain, Cristina T. Vicente, Joana A. Revez, Melanie C. Matheson, Jennie Hui, Joyce Y. Tung, Svetlana Baltic, Peter Le Souëf, Grant W. Montgomery, Nicholas G. Martin, Colin F. Robertson, Alan James, Philip J. Thompson, Dorret I. Boomsma, John L. Hopper, David A. HindsRhiannon B. Werder, Simon Phipps, Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium Collaborators

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Hundreds of genetic variants are thought to contribute to variation in asthma risk by modulating gene expression. Methods that increase the power of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) to identify risk-associated variants are needed. Objective We sought to develop a method that aggregates the evidence for association with disease risk across expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) of a gene and use this approach to identify asthma risk genes. Methods We developed a gene-based test and software package called EUGENE that (1) is applicable to GWAS summary statistics; (2) considers both cis- and trans-eQTLs; (3) incorporates eQTLs identified in different tissues; and (4) uses simulations to account for multiple testing. We applied this approach to 2 published asthma GWASs (combined n = 46,044) and used mouse studies to provide initial functional insights into 2 genes with novel genetic associations. Results We tested the association between asthma and 17,190 genes that were found to have cis- and/or trans-eQTLs across 16 published eQTL studies. At an empirical FDR of 5%, 48 genes were associated with asthma risk. Of these, for 37, the association was driven by eQTLs located in established risk loci for allergic disease, including 6 genes not previously implicated in disease cause (eg, LIMS1, TINF2, and SAFB). The remaining 11 significant genes represent potential novel genetic associations with asthma. The association with 4 of these replicated in an independent GWAS: B4GALT3, USMG5, P2RY13, and P2RY14, which are genes involved in nucleotide synthesis or nucleotide-dependent cell activation. In mouse studies, P2ry13 and P2ry14—purinergic receptors activated by adenosine 5-diphosphate and UDP-sugars, respectively—were upregulated after allergen challenge, notably in airway epithelial cells, eosinophils, and neutrophils. Intranasal exposure with receptor agonists induced the release of IL-33 and subsequent eosinophil infiltration into the lungs. Conclusion We identified novel associations between asthma and eQTLs for 4 genes related to nucleotide synthesis/signaling and demonstrated the power of gene-based analyses of GWASs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1148-1157
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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