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Eur J Hum Genet. 2012 Mar;20(3):321-5. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2011.197. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

Determination of the real effect of genes identified in GWAS: the example of IL2RA in multiple sclerosis.

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  • 1Inserm, U946, Variabilité Génétique et Maladies Humaines, Paris, France.


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS), although efficient to detect genes involved in complex diseases, are not designed to measure the real effect of the genes. This is illustrated here by the example of IL2RA in multiple sclerosis (MS). Association between IL2RA and MS is clearly established, although the functional variation is still unknown: the effect of IL2RA might be better described by several SNPs than by a single one. This study investigates whether a pair of SNPs better explains the observed linkage and association data than a single SNP. In total, 522 trio families and 244 affected sib-pairs were typed for 26 IL2RA SNPs. For each SNP and pairs of SNPs, the phased genotypes of patients and controls were compared to determine the SNP set offering the best risk discrimination. Consistency between the genotype risks provided by the retained set and the identical by descent allele sharing in affected sib-pairs was assessed. After controlling for multiple testing, the set of SNPs rs2256774 and rs3118470, provides the best discrimination between the case and control genotype distributions (P-corrected=0.009). The relative risk between the least and most at-risk genotypes is 3.54 with a 95% confidence interval of [2.14-5.94]. Furthermore, the linkage information provided by the allele sharing between affected sibs is consistent with the retained set (P=0.80) but rejects the SNP reported in the literature (P=0.006). Establishing a valid modeling of a disease gene is essential to test its potential interaction with other genes and to reconstruct the pathophysiological pathways.

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