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Neonatal genetics of gene expression reveal the origins of autoimmune and allergic disease risk

By Qin Qin Huang, Howard H. F. Tang, Shu Mei Teo, Scott C Ritchie, Artika P. Nath, Marta Brozynska, Agus Salim, Andrew Bakshi, Barbara J Holt, Danny Mok, Chiea Chuen Khor, Peter D Sly, Patrick G Holt, Kathryn E Holt, Michael Inouye

Posted 27 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/683086

Chronic immune-mediated diseases of adulthood often originate in early childhood. To investigate genetic associations between neonatal immunity and disease, we collected cord blood samples from a birth cohort and mapped expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) in resting monocytes and CD4+ T cells as well as in response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or phytohemagglutinin (PHA) stimulation, respectively. Cis -eQTLs were largely specific to cell type or stimulation, and response eQTLs were identified for 31% of genes with cis -eQTLs (eGenes) in monocytes and 52% of eGenes in CD4+ T cells. We identified trans -eQTLs and mapped cis regulatory factors which act as mediators of trans effects. There was extensive colocalisation of causal variants for cell type- and stimulation-specific neonatal cis -eQTLs and those of autoimmune and allergic diseases, in particular CTSH (Cathepsin H) which showed widespread colocalisation across diseases. Mendelian randomisation showed causal neonatal gene transcription effects on disease risk for BTN3A2 , HLA-C and many other genes. Our study elucidates the genetics of gene expression in neonatal conditions and cell types as well as the aetiological origins of autoimmune and allergic diseases.

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