Objective: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >100 risk loci for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the disease genes at most loci remain unclear, hampering translation of these genetic discoveries. We aimed to prioritise genes underlying the 110 SLE loci that were identified in the latest East Asian GWAS meta-analysis. Methods: We built gene expression predictive models in blood B cells, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, monocytes, natural killer cells and peripheral blood cells of 105 Japanese individuals. We performed a transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS) using data from the latest genome-wide association meta-analysis of 208 370 East Asians and searched for candidate genes using TWAS and three data-driven computational approaches. Results: TWAS identified 171 genes for SLE (p<1.0×10-5); 114 (66.7%) showed significance only in a single cell type; 127 (74.3%) were in SLE GWAS loci. TWAS identified a strong association between CD83 and SLE (p<7.7×10-8). Meta-analysis of genetic associations in the existing 208 370 East Asian and additional 1498 cases and 3330 controls found a novel single-variant association at rs72836542 (OR=1.11, p=4.5×10-9) around CD83. For the 110 SLE loci, we identified 276 gene candidates, including 104 genes at recently-identified SLE novel loci. We demonstrated in vitro that putative causal variant rs61759532 exhibited an allele-specific regulatory effect on ACAP1, and that presence of the SLE risk allele decreased ACAP1 expression. Conclusions: Cell-level TWAS in six types of immune cells complemented SLE gene discovery and guided the identification of novel genetic associations. The gene findings shed biological insights into SLE genetic associations.
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