Hum Mol Genet 2010 Sep 3;19(17):3482-8. Epub 2010 Jul 3.
Department of Genetics, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for Crohn's disease (CD) have identified loci explaining approximately 20% of the total genetic risk of CD. Part of the other genetic risk loci is probably partly hidden among signals discarded by the multiple testing correction needed in the analysis of GWAS data. Strategies for finding these hidden loci require large replication cohorts and are costly to perform. We adopted a strategy of selecting SNPs for follow-up that showed a correlation to gene expression [cis-expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs)] since these have been shown more likely to be trait-associated. First we show that there is an overrepresentation of cis-eQTLs in the known CD-associated loci. Then SNPs were selected for follow-up by screening the top 500 SNP hits from a CD GWAS data set. We identified 10 cis-eQTL SNPs. These 10 SNPs were tested for association with CD in two independent cohorts of Dutch CD patients (1539) and healthy controls (2648). In a combined analysis, we identified two cis-eQTL SNPs that were associated with CD rs2298428 in UBE2L3 (P=5.22x10(-5)) and rs2927488 in BCL3 (P=2.94x10(-4)). After adding additional publicly available data from a previously reported meta-analysis, the association with rs2298428 almost reached genome-wide significance (P=2.40x10(-7)) and the association with rs2927488 was corroborated (P=6.46x10(-4)). We have identified UBE2L3 and BCL3 as likely novel risk genes for CD. UBE2L3 is also associated with other immune-mediated diseases. These results show that eQTL-based pre-selection for follow-up is a useful approach for identifying risk loci from a moderately sized GWAS.