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Integrative Genomic Analysis and Functional Studies Reveal GP5, GRN, MPO and MCAM as Causal Protein Biomarkers for Platelet Traits

By Dong Heon Lee, Chen Yao, Arunoday Bhan, Thorsten Schlaeger, Joshua Keefe, Benjamin A.T. Rodriguez, Shih-Jen Hwang, Ming-Huei Chen, Daniel Levy, Andrew D. Johnson

Posted 25 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/854216

Rationale Mean platelet volume (MPV) and platelet count (PLT) are platelet measures that have been linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality risk. Identifying protein biomarkers for these measures may yield insights into CVD mechanisms. Objective We aimed to identify causal protein biomarkers for MPV and PLT among 71 CVD-related plasma proteins measured in Framingham Heart Study (FHS) participants. Methods and Results We conducted integrative analyses of genetic variants associated with PLT and MPV with protein quantitative trait locus (pQTL) variants associated with plasma proteins followed by Mendelian randomization (MR) to infer causal relations of proteins for PLT/MPV, and tested protein-PLT/MPV association in FHS participants. Utilizing induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived megakaryocyte (MK) clones that produce functional platelets, we conducted RNA-sequencing and analyzed transcriptome-wide differences between low- and high-platelet producing clones. We then performed small interfering RNA (siRNA) gene knockdown experiments targeting genes encoding proteins with putatively causal platelet effects in MK clones to examine effects on platelet production. Protein-trait association analyses were conducted for MPV (n = 4,348) and PLT (n = 4,272). Eleven proteins were associated with MPV and 31 with PLT. MR identified four putatively causal proteins for MPV and four for PLT. Glycoprotein V (GP5), granulin (GRN), and melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM) were associated with PLT in both protein-trait and MR analyses. Myeloperoxidase (MPO) showed significant association with MPV in both analyses. MK RNA-sequencing analysis results were directionally concordant with observed and MR-inferred associations for GP5, GRN, and MCAM. In siRNA gene knockdown experiments, silencing GP5, GRN, and MPO decreased platelet counts. Conclusions By integrating population genomics data, epidemiological data, and iPSC-derived MK experiments, we identified four proteins that are causally linked to platelet counts. These proteins and genes may be further explored for their utility in increasing platelet production in bioreactors for transfusion medicine purposes as well as their roles in the pathogenesis of CVD via a platelet/blood coagulation-based mechanism.

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