Platelets play a central role in ischemic cardiovascular events. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death worldwide. Numerous genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified loci associated with CVD risk. However, our understanding of how these variants contribute to disease is limited. Using data from the platelet RNA and expression 1 (PRAX1) study, we analyzed cis expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) in platelets from 154 normal human subjects. We confirmed these results in silico by performing allele-specific expression (ASE) analysis, which demonstrated that the allelic directionality of eQTLs and ASE patterns correlate significantly. Comparison of platelet eQTLs with data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project revealed that a number of platelet eQTLs are platelet specific and that platelet eQTL peaks localize to the gene body at a higher rate than eQTLs from other tissues. Upon integration with data from previously published GWASs, we found that the trait-associated variant rs1474868 coincides with the eQTL peak for mitofusin 2 (MFN2). Additional experimental and computational analyses revealed that this eQTL is linked to an unannotated alternate MFN2 start site preferentially expressed in platelets. Integration of phenotype data from the PRAX1 study showed that MFN2 expression levels were significantly associated with platelet count. This study links the variant rs1474868 to a platelet-specific regulatory role for MFN2 and demonstrates the utility of integrating multi-omic data with eQTL analysis in disease-relevant tissues for interpreting GWAS results.
Simon, L. M., Chen, E. S., Edelstein, L. C., Kong, X., Bhatlekar, S., Rigoutsos, I., … Shaw, C. A. (2016). Integrative Multi-omic Analysis of Human Platelet eQTLs Reveals Alternative Start Site in Mitofusin 2. American Journal of Human Genetics, 98(5), 883–897. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.03.007