Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for type 1 diabetes (T1D) have successfully identified more than 40 independent T1D associated tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, owing to technical limitations of copy number variants (CNVs) genotyping assays, the assessment of the role of CNVs has been limited to the subset of these in high linkage disequilibrium with tag SNPs. The contribution of untagged CNVs, often multi-allelic and difficult to genotype using existing assays, to the heritability of T1D remains an open question. To investigate this issue, we designed a custom comparative genetic hybridization array (aCGH) specifically designed to assay untagged CNV loci identified from a variety of sources. To overcome the technical limitations of the case control design for this class of CNVs, we genotyped the Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium (T1DGC) family resource (representing 3,903 transmissions from parents to affected offspring) and used an association testing strategy that does not necessitate obtaining discrete genotypes. Our design targeted 4,309 CNVs, of which 3,410 passed stringent quality control filters. As a positive control, the scan confirmed the known T1D association at the INS locus by direct typing of the 5′ variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) locus. Our results clarify the fact that the disease association is indistinguishable from the two main polymorphic allele classes of the INS VNTR, class I-and class III. We also identified novel technical artifacts resulting into spurious associations at the somatically rearranging loci, T cell receptor, TCRA/TCRD and TCRB, and Immunoglobulin heavy chain, IGH, loci on chromosomes 14q11.2, 7q34 and 14q32.33, respectively. However, our data did not identify novel T1D loci. Our results do not support a major role of untagged CNVs in T1D heritability.
For many complex traits, and in particular type 1 diabetes (T1D), the genome-wide association study (GWAS) design has been successful at detecting a large number of loci that contribute disease risk. However, in the case of T1D as well as almost all other traits, the sum of these loci does not fully explain the heritability estimated from familial studies. This observation raises the possibility that additional variants exist but have not yet been found because they have not effectively been targeted by the GWAS design. Here, we focus on a specific class of large deletions/duplications called copy number variants (CNVs), and more precisely to the subset of these loci that mutate rapidly, which are highly polymorphic. A consequence of this high level of polymorphism is that these variants have typically not been captured by previous GWAS studies. We use a family based design that is optimized to capture these previously untested variants. We then perform a genome-wide scan to assess their contribution to T1D. Our scan was technically successful but did not identify novel associations. This suggests that little was missed by the GWAS strategy, and that the remaining heritability of T1D is most likely driven by a large number of variants, either rare of common, but with a small individual contribution to disease risk.