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Title: Investigation of genetic susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis
Author: Duffus, Kate
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 1845
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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RA is a chronic and disabling disease with no known cure. The disease has a strong genetic component and modern genetic studies have successfully identified over 100 loci associated with the onset of RA. Despite the number of associations identified, the full genetic component of RA is not known, and for the majority of the loci the causal variant remains unknown. The overall aim of this study was to utilise well-powered genetic data, in order to identify novel loci, refine genetic associations, and generate robust evidence for the causal SNP and causal gene at a selected RA locus. An initial analysis was undertaken utilising 3870 RA cases and 8430 controls from the UK-ImmunoChip, a study designed for comprehensive fine-mapping of confirmed RA susceptibility loci. Analysis of the UK-ImmunoChip data identified a novel finding with the TYK2 locus, and proved informative to refining association signals, illustrating the utility of fine-mapping and implicated SNPs with putative regulatory function. The UK-ImmunoChip was subsequently expanded to incorporate samples from five additional cohorts in a study led by Dr. Stephen Eyre. In additional to novel loci discovery, this study provided evidence for SNPs putatively associated with RA (P smaller or equal to5E-05 < 5E-08). In a combined meta-analysis of 17,581 cases and 20,160 controls, convincing evidence was obtained for two novel RA loci, BACH2 and RAD51B.The newly identified genes implicate two novel pathways in RA (B-cell differentiation and DNA repair) and add to the growing number of loci associated with multiple AIDs. These findings are important to aid comprehensive pathway analysis and add to the knowledge of RA risk genes. The third most associated RA locus in both serological subtypes of disease, with an uncharacterised protein, ANKRD55, was subsequently selected for in-depth characterisation. Utilising genetic and haplotypic analysis the association at this locus was refined to a single signal, with four SNPs in strong LD (r2 > 0.8). Through bioinformatic analysis, two SNPs rs6859219 and rs10065637 showed evidence for functional activity, with evidence of being located in an enhancer element, supported by histone marks, DNAse hypersensitivity, evidence of transcription factor binding and eQTL. The use of RNA and ChIP experiments have established a testable hypothesis that the presence of the putative causal variants rs6859219 and rs10065637, act to weaken the strength of the enhancer element in which they are located, (evidenced by diminished H3k4me1 modification), which in turn down-regulates the transcriptional output of the target gene ANKRD55 (evidenced by eQTL in both whole blood and CD4+ T cells).In summary this study has led to the identification of three novel loci, highlighted the importance of fine-mapping and developed a successful systemic strategy for the characterisation of the 5q11 risk locus associated with RA.
Supervisor: Eyre, Stephen ; Worthington, Jane ; Orozco, Gisela Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: novel ; functional characterisation ; ANKRD55 ; Rheumatoid arthritis ; ChIP ; Genetics ; eQTL