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Analysis of Genetically Determined Gene Expression Suggests Role of Inflammatory Processes in Exfoliation Syndrome

By Jibril B. Hirbo, Francesca Pasutto, Eric R Gamazon, Patrick Evans, Priyanka Pawar, Daniel Berner, Julia Sealock, Ran Tao, Peter S. Straub, Anuar I. Konkashbaev, Max Breyer, Ursula Schlötzer-Schrehardt, Andre Reis, Milam A. Brantley, Chiea C. Khor, Karen M. Joos, Nancy J. Cox

Posted 18 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.17.423318

Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is an age-related systemic disorder characterized by excessive production and progressive accumulation of abnormal extracellular material, with pathognomonic ocular manifestations. It is the most common cause of secondary glaucoma, resulting in widespread global blindness. We performed Transcriptomic Wide Association Studies (TWAS) using PrediXcan models trained in 48 GTEx tissues to identify genetically- determined gene expression changes associated with XFS risk, leveraging on results from a global GWAS that included 123,457 individuals from 24 countries. We observed twenty-eight genes in a three-Megabase chr15q22-25 region that showed statistically significant associations, which were further whittled down to ten genes after additional statistical validations. In experimental analysist of these ten genes, mRNA transcript levels for ARID3B, CD276, LOXL1, NEO1, SCAMP2, and UBL7 were significantly decreased in iris tissues from XFS patients compared to control samples. Genes with genetically determined expression changes in XFS were significantly enriched for genes associated with inflammatory conditions. We further explored the health consequences of high susceptibility to XFS using a large electronic health record and observed a higher incidence of XFS comorbidity with inflammatory and connective tissue diseases. Our results implicate a role for connective tissues and inflammation in the etiology of XFS. Targeting the inflammatory pathway may be a potential therapeutic option to reduce progression in XFS.

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