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Genome-Wide Association Study of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy, celiac sprue) is a common disease with significant morbidity and mortality. It is caused by sensitivity to the dietary protein gluten, resulting in a chronic enteropathy in the small intestine. Celiac disease is now recognized to be a common disease, with reports that the disease frequency is 1:133 in the United States, similar to European estimates. There is recent evidence to suggest that the incidence of the disease is rising. Occult disease is frequently present with minimal classic symptoms or signs. The ratio of symptomatic to asymptomatic celiac disease is estimated to be 1:7. Some complications of celiac disease include lymphoma, osteoporosis, anemia, miscarriages, seizures, vitamin deficiencies, and co-occurrence of other autoimmune diseases. The only treatment is a gluten-free diet, so that recurrence of symptoms and complications may occur after minor dietary indiscretions. Identifying the underlying genetic causes of celiac disease may allow us to identify susceptible individuals, as well as advance new ways to prevent the disease and to treat it once it occurs.

Several genome-wide linkage studies and one genome-wide association study of celiac disease have been conducted. Other than the common locus at HLA, few putative celiac disease loci have been replicated between studies, suggesting that the disease is heterogeneous and complex. A portion of the genetic predisposition can be attributed to HLA, but the etiology is likely due to a number of rare, high penetrant genes (as would be identified in linkage analysis) and to more common, low penetrant genes (as would be identified in association studies).

The objective of this study is to identify new loci that increase risk to develop celiac disease. We will capitalize on existing North American resources, including three large collections of celiac cases and controls (Aim 1) and an independent set of celiac cases and their families (Aim 3). We propose a comprehensive multi-stage approach, with the following specific aims. In Aim 1, we will conduct a genome-wide association (GWA) study of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and copy number variants (CNVs). The GWA will include1900 disease cases and 3400 matched controls, genotyped using the Illumina Human 610-quad chip. Statistical analyses will be performed to test for associations with celiac disease. In Aim 2, we will conduct a combined analysis of our GWA dataset from Aim 1 and a previous GWA dataset to identify additional low-penetrance loci. In Aim 3, we will attempt to replicate significant findings from the GWA study in two independent sample sets. At the conclusion of this study, we expect to have validated a number of SNPs and CNPs from regions in the genome that alter the risk of developing celiac disease. These SNPs may prove useful at both the clinical and research level. The data from the study will be shared with the scientific community.