Epidemiology and candidate gene studies indicate a shared genetic basis for celiac disease (CD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but the extent of this sharing has not been systematically explored. Previous studies demonstrate that 6 of the established non-HLA CD and RA risk loci (out of 26 loci for each disease) are shared between both diseases. We hypothesized that there are additional shared risk alleles and that combining genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from each disease would increase power to identify these shared risk alleles. We performed a meta-analysis of two published GWAS on CD (4,533 cases and 10,750 controls) and RA (5,539 cases and 17,231 controls). After genotyping the top associated SNPs in 2,169 CD cases and 2,255 controls, and 2,845 RA cases and 4,944 controls, 8 additional SNPs demonstrated P<5×10−8 in a combined analysis of all 50,266 samples, including four SNPs that have not been previously confirmed in either disease: rs10892279 near the DDX6 gene (Pcombined = 1.2×10−12), rs864537 near CD247 (Pcombined = 2.2×10−11), rs2298428 near UBE2L3 (Pcombined = 2.5×10−10), and rs11203203 near UBASH3A (Pcombined = 1.1×10−8). We also confirmed that 4 gene loci previously established in either CD or RA are associated with the other autoimmune disease at combined P<5×10−8 (SH2B3, 8q24, STAT4, and TRAF1-C5). From the 14 shared gene loci, 7 SNPs showed a genome-wide significant effect on expression of one or more transcripts in the linkage disequilibrium (LD) block around the SNP. These associations implicate antigen presentation and T-cell activation as a shared mechanism of disease pathogenesis and underscore the utility of cross-disease meta-analysis for identification of genetic risk factors with pleiotropic effects between two clinically distinct diseases.
Celiac disease (CD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two autoimmune diseases characterized by distinct clinical features but increased co-occurrence in families and individuals. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) performed in CD and RA have identified the HLA region and 26 non-HLA genetic risk loci in each disease. Of the 26 CD and 26 RA risk loci, previous studies have shown that six are shared between the two diseases. In this study we aimed to identify additional shared risk alleles and, in doing so, gain more insight into shared disease pathogenesis. We first empirically investigated the distribution of putative risk alleles from GWAS across both diseases (after removing known risk loci for both diseases). We found that CD risk alleles are non-randomly distributed in the RA GWAS (and vice versa), indicating that CD risk alleles have an increased prior probability of being associated with RA (and vice versa). Next, we performed a GWAS meta-analysis to search for shared risk alleles by combing the RA and CD GWAS, performing both directional and opposite allelic effect analyses, followed by replication testing in independent case-control datasets in both diseases. In addition to the already established six non-HLA shared risk loci, we observed statistically robust associations at eight SNPs, thereby increasing the number of shared non-HLA risk loci to fourteen. Finally, we used gene expression studies and pathway analysis tools to identify the plausible candidate genes in the fourteen associated loci. We observed remarkable overrepresentation of T-cell signaling molecules among the shared genes.