Methods: A targeted GWAS was used to investigate whether ten candidate genes with known roles in corneal development were associated with CCT in two Singaporean populations. The single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within a 500 kb interval encompassing each candidate were analyzed, and in light of the resulting data, members of the Wnt pathway were subsequently screened using similar methodology.
Results: Variants within the 500 kb interval encompassing three candidate genes, DKK1 (rs1896368, p=1.32×10-3), DKK2 (rs17510449, p=7.34×10-4), and FOXO1 (rs7326616, p=1.56×10-4 and rs4943785, p=1.19×10-3), were statistically significantly associated with CCT in the Singapore Indian population. DKK2 was statistically significantly associated with CCT in a separate Singapore Malaysian population (rs10015200, p=2.26×10-3). Analysis of Wnt signaling pathway genes in each population demonstrated that TCF7L2 (rs3814573, p=1.18×10-3), RYK (rs6763231, p=1.12×10-3 and rs4854785, p=1.11×10-3), and FZD8 (rs640827, p=5.17×10-4) were statistically significantly associated with CCT.
Conclusions: The targeted GWAS identified four genes (DKK1, DKK2, RYK, and FZD8) with novel associations with CCT and confirmed known associations with two genes, FOXO1 and TCF7L2. All six participate in the Wnt pathway, supporting a broader role for Wnt signaling in regulating the thickness of the cornea. In parallel, this study demonstrated that a hypothesis-driven candidate gene approach can identify associations in existing GWAS data sets.
METHODS: We did a genome-wide association study of 189 patients with extranodal NKTCL, nasal type (WHO classification criteria; cases) and 957 controls from Guangdong province, southern China. We validated our findings in four independent case-control series, including 75 cases from Guangdong province and 296 controls from Hong Kong, 65 cases and 983 controls from Guangdong province, 125 cases and 1110 controls from Beijing (northern China), and 60 cases and 2476 controls from Singapore. We used imputation and conditional logistic regression analyses to fine-map the associations. We also did a meta-analysis of the replication series and of the entire dataset.
FINDINGS: Associations exceeding the genome-wide significance threshold (p<5 × 10(-8)) were seen at 51 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapping to the class II MHC region on chromosome 6, with rs9277378 (located in HLA-DPB1) having the strongest association with NKTCL susceptibility (p=4·21 × 10(-19), odds ratio [OR] 1·84 [95% CI 1·61-2·11] in meta-analysis of entire dataset). Imputation-based fine-mapping across the class II MHC region suggests that four aminoacid residues (Gly84-Gly85-Pro86-Met87) in near-complete linkage disequilibrium at the edge of the peptide-binding groove of HLA-DPB1 could account for most of the association between the rs9277378*A risk allele and NKTCL susceptibility (OR 2·38, p value for haplotype 2·32 × 10(-14)). This association is distinct from MHC associations with Epstein-Barr virus infection.
INTERPRETATION: To our knowledge, this is the first time that a genetic variant conferring an NKTCL risk is noted at genome-wide significance. This finding underlines the importance of HLA-DP antigen presentation in the pathogenesis of NKTCL.
FUNDING: Top-Notch Young Talents Program of China, Special Support Program of Guangdong, Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education (20110171120099), Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-11-0529), National Medical Research Council of Singapore (TCR12DEC005), Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Medical Oncology, New Century Foundation Limited, Ling Foundation, Singapore National Cancer Centre Research Fund, and the US National Institutes of Health (1R01AR062886, 5U01GM092691-04, and 1R01AR063759-01A1).
METHODS: We did a genome-wide association study of NKTCL in multiple populations from east Asia. We recruited a discovery cohort of 700 cases with NKTCL and 7752 controls without NKTCL of Han Chinese ancestry from 19 centres in southern, central, and northern regions of China, and four independent replication samples including 717 cases and 12 650 controls. Three of these independent samples (451 cases and 5301 controls) were from eight centres in the same regions of southern, central, and northern China, and the fourth (266 cases and 7349 controls) was from 11 centres in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. All cases had primary NKTCL that was confirmed histopathologically, and matching with controls was based on geographical region and self-reported ancestry. Logistic regression analysis was done independently by geographical regions, followed by fixed-effect meta-analyses, to identify susceptibility loci. Bioinformatic approaches, including expression quantitative trait loci, binding motif and transcriptome analyses, and biological experiments were done to fine-map and explore the functional relevance of genome-wide association loci to the development of NKTCL.
FINDINGS: Genetic data were gathered between Jan 1, 2008, and Jan 23, 2019. Meta-analysis of all samples (a total of 1417 cases and 20 402 controls) identified two novel loci significantly associated with NKTCL: IL18RAP on 2q12.1 (rs13015714; p=2·83 × 10-16; odds ratio 1·39 [95% CI 1·28-1·50]) and HLA-DRB1 on 6p21.3 (rs9271588; 9·35 × 10-26 1·53 [1·41-1·65]). Fine-mapping and experimental analyses showed that rs1420106 at the promoter of IL18RAP was highly correlated with rs13015714, and the rs1420106-A risk variant had an upregulatory effect on IL18RAP expression. Cell growth assays in two NKTCL cell lines (YT and SNK-6 cells) showed that knockdown of IL18RAP inhibited cell proliferation by cell cycle arrest in NKTCL cells. Haplotype association analysis showed that haplotype 47F-67I was associated with reduced risk of NKTCL, whereas 47Y-67L was associated with increased risk of NKTCL. These two positions are component parts of the peptide-binding pocket 7 (P7) of the HLA-DR heterodimer, suggesting that these alterations might account for the association at HLA-DRB1, independent of the previously reported HLA-DPB1 variants.
INTERPRETATION: Our findings provide new insights into the development of NKTCL by showing the importance of inflammation and immune regulation through the IL18-IL18RAP axis and antigen presentation involving HLA-DRB1, which might help to identify potential therapeutic targets. Taken in combination with additional genetic and other risk factors, our results could potentially be used to stratify people at high risk of NKTCL for targeted prevention.
FUNDING: Guangdong Innovative and Entrepreneurial Research Team Program, National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Program for Support of Top-Notch Young Professionals, Chang Jiang Scholars Program, Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council, Tanoto Foundation, National Research Foundation Singapore, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Recruitment Program for Young Professionals of China, First Affiliated Hospital and Army Medical University, US National Institutes of Health, and US National Cancer Institute.