Integrative Pathway-Based Approach for Genome-Wide Association Studies: Identification of New Pathways for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes

Abstract

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) led to the identification of numerous novel loci for a number of complex diseases. Pathway-based approaches using genotypic data provide tangible leads which cannot be identified by single marker approaches as implemented in GWAS. The available pathway analysis approaches mainly differ in the employed databases and in the applied statistics for determining the significance of the associated disease markers. So far, pathway-based approaches using GWAS data failed to consider the overlapping of genes among different pathways or the influence of protein-interactions. We performed a multistage integrative pathway (MIP) analysis on three common diseases--Crohn's disease (CD), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and type 1 diabetes (T1D)--incorporating genotypic, pathway, protein- and domain-interaction data to identify novel associations between these diseases and pathways. Additionally, we assessed the sensitivity of our method by studying the influence of the most significant SNPs on the pathway analysis by removing those and comparing the corresponding pathway analysis results. Apart from confirming many previously published associations between pathways and RA, CD and T1D, our MIP approach was able to identify three new associations between disease phenotypes and pathways. This includes a relation between the influenza-A pathway and RA, as well as a relation between T1D and the phagosome and toxoplasmosis pathways. These results provide new leads to understand the molecular underpinnings of these diseases. The developed software herein used is available at http://www.cogsys.cs.uni-tuebingen.de/software/GWASPathwayIdentifier/index.htm.

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