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Transcriptome-wide association study in UK Biobank Europeans identifies associations with blood cell traits.

By Bryce Rowland, Sanan Venkatesh, Manuel Tardaguila, Jia Wen, Jonathan D Rosen, Amanda L Tapia, Quan Sun, Mariaelisa Graff, Dragana Vuckovic, Guillaume Lettre, Vijay G. Sankaran, Alexander P Reiner, Nicole Soranzo, Jennifer E. Huffman, Georgios Voloudakis, Panos Roussos, Laura Raffield, Yun Li

Posted 05 Aug 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.03.453690

Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of hematological traits have identified over 10,000 distinct trait-specific risk loci, but the underlying causal mechanisms at these loci remain incompletely characterized. We performed a transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS) of 29 hematological traits in 399,835 UK Biobank (UKB) participants of European ancestry using gene expression prediction models trained from whole blood RNA-seq data in 922 individuals. We discovered 557 TWAS signals associated with hematological traits distinct from previously discovered GWAS variants, including 10 completely novel gene-trait pairs corresponding to 9 unique genes. Among the 557 associations, 301 were available for replication in a cohort of 141,286 participants of European ancestry from the Million Veteran Program (MVP). Of these 301 associations, 199 replicated at a nominal threshold ( = 0.05) and 108 replicated at a strict Bonferroni adjusted threshold ( = 0.05/301). Using our TWAS results, we systematically assigned 4,261 out of 16,900 previously identified hematological trait GWAS variants to putative target genes. Compared to coloc, our TWAS results show reduced specificity and increased sensitivity to assign variants to target genes.

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