Genetic association and transcriptome integration identify contributing genes and tissues at cystic fibrosis modifier loci

Jiafen Gong, Fan Wang, Bowei Xiao, Naim Panjwani, Fan Lin, Katherine Keenan, Julie Avolio, Mohsen Esmaeili, Lin Zhang, Gengming He, David Soave, Scott Mastromatteo, Zeynep Baskurt, Sangook Kim, Wanda K. O’Neal, Deepika Polineni, Scott M. Blackman, Harriet Corvol, Garry R. Cutting, Mitchell DrummMichael R. Knowles, Johanna M. Rommens, Lei Sun, Lisa J. Strug

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47 Scopus citations


Cystic Fibrosis (CF) exhibits morbidity in several organs, including progressive lung disease in all patients and intestinal obstruction at birth (meconium ileus) in ~15%. Individuals with the same causal CFTR mutations show variable disease presentation which is partly attributed to modifier genes. With >6,500 participants from the International CF Gene Modifier Consortium, genome-wide association investigation identified a new modifier locus for meconium ileus encompassing ATP12A on chromosome 13 (min p = 3.83x10 -10 ); replicated loci encompassing SLC6A14 on chromosome X and SLC26A9 on chromosome 1, (min p<2.2x10 -16 , 2.81x10 −11 , respectively); and replicated a suggestive locus on chromosome 7 near PRSS1 (min p = 2.55x10 -7 ). PRSS1 is exclusively expressed in the exocrine pancreas and was previously associated with non-CF pancreatitis with functional characterization demonstrating impact on PRSS1 gene expression. We thus asked whether the other meconium ileus modifier loci impact gene expression and in which organ. We developed and applied a colocalization framework called the Simple Sum (SS) that integrates regulatory and genetic association information, and also contrasts colocalization evidence across tissues or genes. The associated modifier loci colocalized with expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) for ATP12A (p = 3.35x10 -8 ), SLC6A14 (p = 1.12x10 -10 ) and SLC26A9 (p = 4.48x10 -5 ) in the pancreas, even though meconium ileus manifests in the intestine. The meconium ileus susceptibility locus on chromosome X appeared shifted in location from a previously identified locus for CF lung disease severity. Using the SS we integrated the lung disease association locus with eQTLs from nasal epithelia of 63 CF participants and demonstrated evidence of colocalization with airway-specific regulation of SLC6A14 (p = 2.3x10 -4 ). Cystic Fibrosis is realizing the promise of personalized medicine, and identification of the contributing organ and understanding of tissue specificity for a gene modifier is essential for the next phase of personalizing therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008007
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


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