Blood group antigen loci demonstrate multivariate genetic associations with circulating cellular adhesion protein levels in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Nicholas B. Larson, Paul A. Decker, Christina L. Wassel, James S. Pankow, Weihong Tang, Naomi Q. Hanson, Michael Y. Tsai, Suzette J. Bielinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cellular adhesion pathway is critical in the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis, and genetic factors contributing to regulation of circulating levels of related proteins may be relevant to risk prediction of cardiovascular disease. In contrast to conducting separate genome-wide protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL) mapping analyses of each individual protein, joint genetic association analyses of multiple quantitative traits can leverage cross-trait co-variation and identify simultaneous regulatory effects on protein levels across the pathway. We conducted a multi-pQTL (mpQTL) analysis of 15 proteins related to cellular adhesion assayed on 2313 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). We applied the MQFAM multivariate association analysis method in PLINK on normalized protein level residuals derived from univariate linear regression, adjusting for age, sex, and principal components of ancestry. Race/ethnicity-stratified analyses identified nine genome-wide significant (P < 5e−08) loci associated with co-variation of protein levels. Although the majority of these SNPs were in proximity to structural genes of the assayed proteins, we discovered multiple loci demonstrating co-association with the circulation of at least two proteins. Of these, two significant loci specific to non-Hispanic white participants, rs17074898 at ALOX5AP (P = 1.78E−08) and rs7521237 at KIAA1614 (P = 2.2E−08), would not have met statistical significance using univariate analyses. Moreover, common patterns of multi-protein associations were discovered at the ABO locus across race/ethnicity. These results indicate the biological relevance of blood group antigens on regulation of circulating cellular adhesion pathway proteins while also demonstrating race/ethnicity-specific co-regulatory effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Cardiometabochip genotyping data were supported in part by grants and contracts R01HL98077, N02-HL-64278, HL071205, UL1TR000124, DK063491, RD831697, and P50 ES015915. Funding for CARe IBC chip genotyping was provided by NHLBI Contract N01-HC-65226. Although the research described in this presentation has been funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency through RD831697 to the University of Washington, it has not been subjected to the Agency’s required peer and policy review and, therefore, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. Funding for adhesion protein levels was provided by NHLBI by grant R01HL98077. MESA and the MESA SHARe project are conducted and supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in collaboration with MESA investigators. Support for MESA is provided by contracts N01-HC-95159, N01-HC-95160, N01-HC-95161, N01-HC-95162, N01-HC-95163, N01-HC-95164, N01-HC-95165, N01-HC-95166, N01-HC-95167, N01-HC-95168, N01-HC-95169, UL1-TR-001079, UL1-TR-000040, and DK063491. The authors thank the other investigators, the staff, and the participants of the MESA study for their valuable contributions. A full list of participating MESA investigators and institutions can be found at .

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