Integrative Prioritization of Causal Genes for Coronary Artery Disease

Ke Hao, Raili Ermel, Ling Li, Letizia Amadori, Simon Koplev, Oscar Franzén, Valentina D'Escamard, Nirupama Chandel, Kathryn Wolhuter, Nicole S. Bryce, Vamsidhar R.M. Venkata, Clint L. Miller, Arno Ruusalepp, Heribert Schunkert, Johan L.M. Björkegren, Jason C. Kovacic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Hundreds of candidate genes have been associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) through genome-wide association studies. However, a systematic way to understand the causal mechanism(s) of these genes, and a means to prioritize them for further study, has been lacking. This represents a major roadblock for developing novel disease- and gene-specific therapies for patients with CAD. Recently, powerful integrative genomics analyses pipelines have emerged to identify and prioritize candidate causal genes by integrating tissue/cell-specific gene expression data with genome-wide association study data sets. Methods: We aimed to develop a comprehensive integrative genomics analyses pipeline for CAD and to provide a prioritized list of causal CAD genes. To this end, we leveraged several complimentary informatics approaches to integrate summary statistics from CAD genome-wide association studies (from UK Biobank and CARDIoGRAMplusC4D) with transcriptomic and expression quantitative trait loci data from 9 cardiometabolic tissue/cell types in the STARNET study (Stockholm-Tartu Atherosclerosis Reverse Network Engineering Task). Results: We identified 162 unique candidate causal CAD genes, which exerted their effect from between one and up to 7 disease-relevant tissues/cell types, including the arterial wall, blood, liver, skeletal muscle, adipose, foam cells, and macrophages. When their causal effect was ranked, the top candidate causal CAD genes were CDKN2B (associated with the 9p21.3 risk locus) and PHACTR1; both exerting their causal effect in the arterial wall. A majority of candidate causal genes were represented in cross-tissue gene regulatory co-expression networks that are involved with CAD, with 22/162 being key drivers in those networks. Conclusions: We identified and prioritized candidate causal CAD genes, also localizing their tissue(s) of causal effect. These results should serve as a resource and facilitate targeted studies to identify the functional impact of top causal CAD genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E003365
JournalCirculation. Genomic and precision medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • aorta
  • atherosclerosis
  • coronary artery disease
  • genomics
  • liver


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