Cross-disease Meta-analysis of Genome-wide Association Studies for Systemic Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Reveals IRF4 as a New Common Susceptibility Locus
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AuthorLópez Isac, Elena; Martín, Jose Ezequiel; Assassi, Shervin; Simeón Aznar, Carmen Pilar; Carreira, Patricia; Ortego Centeno, Norberto; Freire, Mayka; Beltrán, Emma; Narváez, Javier; Alegre Sancho, Juan J.; Spanish Scleroderma Group; Fernández Gutiérrez, Benjamín; Balsa Criado, Alejandro; Ortiz, Ana M.; González-Gay Mantecón, Miguel Ángel; Beretta, Lorenzo; Santaniello, Alessandro; Bellocchi, Chiara; Lunardi, Claudio; [et al.]
Objectives: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are autoimmune diseases that share clinical and immunological characteristics. To date, several shared SSc- RA loci have been identified independently. In this study, we aimed to systematically search for new common SSc-RA loci through an inter-disease meta-GWAS strategy. Methods: We performed a meta-analysis combining GWAS datasets of SSc and RA using a strategy that allowed identification of loci with both same-direction and opposingdirection allelic effects. The top single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were followed-up in independent SSc and RA case-control cohorts. This allowed us to increase the sample size to a total of 8,830 SSc patients, 16,870 RA patients and 43,393 controls. Results: The cross-disease meta-analysis of the GWAS datasets identified several loci with nominal association signals (P-value < 5 x 10-6), which also showed evidence of association in the disease-specific GWAS scan. These loci included several genomic regions not previously reported as shared loci, besides risk factors associated with both diseases in previous studies. The follow-up of the putatively new SSc-RA loci identified IRF4 as a shared risk factor for these two diseases (Pcombined = 3.29 x 10-12). In addition, the analysis of the biological relevance of the known SSc-RA shared loci pointed to the type I interferon and the interleukin 12 signaling pathways as the main common etiopathogenic factors. Conclusions: Our study has identified a novel shared locus, IRF4, for SSc and RA and highlighted the usefulness of cross-disease GWAS meta-analysis in the identification of common risk loci.
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