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A joint transcriptome-wide association study across multiple tissues identifies new candidate susceptibility genes for breast cancer

By Guimin Gao, Peter N. Fiorica, Julian McClellan, Alvaro Barbeira, James L Li, Olufunmilayo I Olopade, Hae Kyung Im, Dezheng Huo

Posted 01 Oct 2022
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.09.30.22280575

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than 200 genomic loci for breast cancer risk, but specific causal genes in most of these loci have not been identified. In fact, transcriptome-wide association studies (TWAS) of breast cancer performed using gene expression prediction models trained in breast tissue have yet to clearly identify most target genes. To identify novel candidate genes, we performed a joint TWAS analysis that combined TWAS signals from multiple tissues. We used expression prediction models trained in 47 tissues from the Genotype-Tissue Expression data using a multivariate adaptive shrinkage method along with association summary statistics from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium and UK Biobank data. We identified 380 genes at 129 genomic loci to be significantly associated with breast cancer at the Bonferroni threshold (p < 2.36E-6). Of them, 29 genes were located in 11 novel regions that were at least 1Mb away from published GWAS hits. The rest of TWAS-significant genes were located in 118 known genomic loci from previous GWAS of breast cancer. After conditioning on previous GWAS index variants, we found that 22 genes located in known GWAS loci remained statistically significant. Our study maps potential target genes in more than half of known GWAS loci and discovers multiple new loci, providing new insights into breast cancer genetics.

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