Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have discovered over 100 RA loci, explaining patient-relevant RA pathogenesis but showing a large fraction of missing heritability. As a continuous effort, we conducted GWAS in a large Korean RA case–control population.
We newly generated genome-wide variant data in two independent Korean cohorts comprising 4068 RA cases and 36 487 controls, followed by a whole-genome imputation and a meta-analysis of the disease association results in the two cohorts. By integrating publicly available omics data with the GWAS results, a series of bioinformatic analyses were conducted to prioritise the RA-risk genes in RA loci and to dissect biological mechanisms underlying disease associations.
We identified six new RA-risk loci (SLAMF6, CXCL13, SWAP70, NFKBIA, ZFP36L1 and LINC00158 ) with pmeta<5×10−8 and consistent disease effect sizes in the two cohorts. A total of 122 genes were prioritised from the 6 novel and 13 replicated RA loci based on physical distance, regulatory variants and chromatin interaction. Bioinformatics analyses highlighted potentially RA-relevant tissues (including immune tissues, lung and small intestine) with tissue-specific expression of RA-associated genes and suggested the immune-related gene sets (such as CD40 pathway, IL-21-mediated pathway and citrullination) and the risk-allele sharing with other diseases.
This study identified six new RA-associated loci that contributed to better understanding of the genetic aetiology and biology in RA.