Post-GWAS functional characterization of susceptibility variants for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
- Author(s): Sillé, Fenna
- Thomas, Reuben
- Smith, Martyn T.
- Conde, Lucia
- Skibola, Christine
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029632
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several gene variants associated with sporadic chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL). Many of these CLL/SLL susceptibility loci are located in non-coding or intergenic regions, posing a significant challenge to determine their potential functional relevance. Here, we review the literature of all CLL/SLL GWAS and validation studies, and apply eQTL analysis to identify putatively functional SNPs that affect gene expression that may be causal in the pathogenesis of CLL/SLL. We tested 12 independent risk loci for their potential to alter gene expression through cis-acting mechanisms, using publicly available gene expression profiles with matching genotype information. Sixteen SNPs were identified that are linked to differential expression of SP140, a putative tumor suppressor gene previously associated with CLL/SLL. Three additional SNPs were associated with differential expression of DACT3 and GNG8, which are involved in the WNT/β-catenin- and G protein-coupled receptor signaling pathways, respectively, that have been previously implicated in CLL/SLL pathogenesis. Using in silico functional prediction tools, we found that 14 of the 19 significant eQTL SNPs lie in multiple putative regulatory elements, several of which have prior implications in CLL/SLL or other hematological malignancies. Although experimental validation is needed, our study shows that the use of existing GWAS data in combination with eQTL analysis and in silico methods represents a useful starting point to screen for putatively causal SNPs that may be involved in the etiology of CLL/SLL.