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Genes with high network connectivity are enriched for disease heritability

By Samuel S Kim, Chengzhen Dai, Farhad Hormozdiari, Bryce van de Geijn, Steven Gazal, Yongjin Park, Luke O’Connor, Tiffany Amariuta, Po-Ru Loh, Hilary K Finucane, Soumya Raychaudhuri, Alkes Price

Posted 13 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/442582 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2019.03.020)

Recent studies have highlighted the role of gene networks in disease biology. To formally assess this, we constructed a broad set of pathway, network, and pathway+network annotations and applied stratified LD score regression to 42 independent diseases and complex traits (average N = 323K) to identify enriched annotations. First, we constructed annotations from 18,119 biological pathways, including 100kb windows around each gene. We identified 156 pathway-trait pairs whose disease enrichment was statistically significant (FDR < 5%) after conditioning on all genes and on annotations from the baseline-LD model, a stringent step that greatly reduced the number of pathways detected; most of the significant pathway-trait pairs were previously unreported. Next, for each of four published gene networks, we constructed probabilistic annotations based on network connectivity using closeness centrality, a measure of how close a gene is to other genes in the network. For each gene network, the network connectivity annotation was strongly significantly enriched. Surprisingly, the enrichments were fully explained by excess overlap between network annotations and regulatory annotations from the baseline-LD model, validating the informativeness of the baseline-LD model and emphasizing the importance of accounting for regulatory annotations in gene network analyses. Finally, for each of the 156 enriched pathway-trait pairs, for each of the four gene networks, we constructed pathway+network annotations by annotating genes with high network connectivity to the input pathway. For each gene network, these pathway+network annotations were strongly significantly enriched for the corresponding traits. Once again, the enrichments were largely explained by the baseline-LD model. In conclusion, gene network connectivity is highly informative for disease architectures, but the information in gene networks may be subsumed by regulatory annotations, such that accounting for known annotations is critical to robust inference of biological mechanisms.

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