Pathway analysis of genome-wide association study data in primary biliary cirrhosisa

Siddhartha Kar, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified several genetic loci associated with inherited predisposition to primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), the most common autoimmune disease of the liver. Pathway-based tests constitute a novel paradigm for GWAS analysis. By evaluating genetic variation across a biological pathway (gene set), these tests have the potential to determine the collective impact of variants with subtle effects that are individually too weak to be detected in traditional single variant GWAS analysis. To identify biological pathways associated with the risk of development of PBC, GWAS of PBC from Italy (449 cases and 940 controls) and Canada (530 cases and 398 controls) were independently analyzed. The linear combination test (LCT), a recently developed pathway-level statistical method was used for this analysis. For additional validation, pathways that were replicated at the P <0.05 level of significance in both GWAS on LCT analysis were also tested for association with PBC in each dataset using two complementary GWAS pathway approaches. The complementary approaches included a modification of the gene set enrichment analysis algorithm (i-GSEA4GWAS) and Fisher's exact test for pathway enrichment ratios. Twenty-five pathways were associated with PBC risk on LCT analysis in the Italian dataset at P<0.05, of which eight had an FDR<0.25. The top pathway in the Italian dataset was the TNF/stress related signaling pathway (p=7.38×10 -4, FDR=0.18). Twenty-six pathways were associated with PBC at the P<0.05 level using the LCT in the Canadian dataset with the regulation and function of ChREBP in liver pathway (p=5.68×10-4, FDR=0.285) emerging as the most significant pathway. Two pathways, phosphatidylinositol signaling system (Italian: p=0.016, FDR=0.436; Canadian: p=0.034, FDR=0.693) and hedgehog signaling (Italian: p=0.044, FDR=0.636; Canadian: p=0.041, FDR=0.693), were replicated at LCT P<0.05 in both datasets. Statistically significant association of both pathways with PBC genetic susceptibility was confirmed in the Italian dataset on i-GSEA4GWAS. Results for the phosphatidylinositol signaling system were also significant in both datasets on applying Fisher's exact test for pathway enrichment ratios. This study identified a combination of known and novel pathway-level associations with PBC risk. If functionally validated, the findings may yield fresh insights into the etiology of this complex autoimmune disease with possible preventive and therapeutic application.

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Recommended Citation

Kar, Siddhartha, "Pathway analysis of genome-wide association study data in primary biliary cirrhosisa" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1511824.