Complex disorders are caused by multiple genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, and their interactions. Most human diseases are complex, including many psychiatric, autoimmune, neurodegenerative, and cardiovascular disorders. Understanding their genetic background is an essential step toward developing effective preventive and therapeutic interventions for these disorders. In this dissertation, we present an overview of state-of-the-art methodology that is used to help elucidate the genetic basis of complex diseases and apply these methods to understand the genetic background of different complex disorders. First, we carried out a GWAS for myasthenia gravis (MG), a rare autoimmune disorder, and detected a novel risk locus, AGRN, which encodes a protein, involved in neuromuscular junction activation. Additionally, we observed significant genetic correlation between MG and ADs, and variants with pleiotropic effects. Second, we explored the genetic and phenotypic relationships among 11 different autoimmune disorders (ADs), using GWAS results o to calculate polygenic risk scores (PRS) and performing a PRS- phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) analysis with 3,281 phenotypes available in the UK Biobank. We observed associations of ADs PRS with phenotypes in multiple categories, including lifestyle, biomarkers, mental and physical health. We also explored the shared genetic components among the ADs, through genetic correlation and cross-disorder meta-analysis approaches, where we
identified pleiotropic variants among the correlated ADs. Finally, we performed a meta-analysis GWAS of Tourette Syndrome (TS) followed by post-GWAS analyses including biological annotation of the results, and association tests of TS PRS with brain volumes. We detected a novel locus, NR2F1, associated with TS, supported by eQTL and Hi-C data. TS PRS was significantly associated with right and left thalamus volumes and right putamen volume. Overall, our work demonstrates the power of GWAS and related methods to help disentangle the genetic basis of complex disease and provides important insights into the genetic basis of the specific disorders that are the focus of our studies.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Biological Sciences
- West Lafayette