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Gene expression profiles complement the analysis of genomic modifiers of the clinical onset of Huntington disease.

  • Wright, Galen E B1, 2, 3
  • Caron, Nicholas S1, 2, 3
  • Ng, Bernard1, 2, 4
  • Casal, Lorenzo1, 2, 3
  • Casazza, William1, 2, 4
  • Xu, Xiaohong5
  • Ooi, Jolene5
  • Pouladi, Mahmoud A5, 6, 7
  • Mostafavi, Sara1, 2, 4
  • Ross, Colin J D3, 7, 8
  • Hayden, Michael R1, 2, 3
  • 1 Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4H4, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 2 Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6H 3N1, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4H4, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 4 Department of Statistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 5 Translational Laboratory in Genetic Medicine (TLGM), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore 138648, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 6 Department of Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117597, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 7 Department of Physiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117597, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 8 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Human Molecular Genetics
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Aug 18, 2020
DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddaa184
PMID: 32898862


Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in HTT. The length of this repeat, however, only explains a proportion of the variability in age of onset in patients. Genome-wide association studies have identified modifiers that contribute toward a proportion of the observed variance. By incorporating tissue-specific transcriptomic information with these results, additional modifiers can be identified. We performed a transcriptome-wide association study assessing heritable differences in genetically determined expression in diverse tissues, with genome-wide data from over 4000 patients. Functional validation of prioritized genes was undertaken in isogenic HD stem cells and patient brains. Enrichment analyses were performed with biologically relevant gene sets to identify the core pathways. HD-associated gene coexpression modules were assessed for associations with neurological phenotypes in an independent cohort and to guide drug repurposing analyses. Transcriptomic analyses identified genes that were associated with age of HD onset and displayed colocalization with gene expression signals in brain tissue (FAN1, GPR161, PMS2, SUMF2), with supporting evidence from functional experiments. This included genes involved in DNA repair, as well as novel-candidate modifier genes that have been associated with other neurological conditions. Further, cortical coexpression modules were also associated with cognitive decline and HD-related traits in a longitudinal cohort. In summary, the combination of population-scale gene expression information with HD patient genomic data identified novel modifier genes for the disorder. Further, these analyses expanded the pathways potentially involved in modifying HD onset and prioritized candidate therapeutics for future study. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected]

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