Functional Annotation of Genetic Loci Associated With Sepsis Prioritizes Immune and Endothelial Cell Pathways

Kieu T. T. Le, Vasiliki Matzaraki, Mihai G. Netea, Cisca Wijmenga, Jill Moser, Vinod Kumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Due to limited sepsis patient cohort size and extreme heterogeneity, only one significant locus and suggestive associations at several independent loci were implicated by three genome-wide association studies. However, genes from such suggestive loci may also provide crucial information to unravel genetic mechanisms that determine sepsis heterogeneity. Therefore, in this study, we made use of integrative approaches to prioritize genes and pathways affected by sepsis associated genetic variants. By integrating expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) results from the largest whole-blood eQTL database, cytokine QTLs from pathogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), publicly available blood transcriptome data from pneumoniae-derived sepsis patients, and transcriptome data from pathogen-stimulated PBMCs, we identified 55 potential genes affected by 39 independent loci. By performing pathway enrichment analysis at these loci we found enrichment of genes for adherences-junction pathway. Finally, we investigated the functional role of the only one GWAS significant SNP rs4957796 on sepsis survival in altering transcription factor binding affinity in monocytes and endothelial cells. We also found that transient deficiency of FER and MAN2A1 affect endothelial response to stimulation, indicating that both FER and MAN2A1 could be the causal genes at this locus. Taken together, our study suggests that in addition to immune pathways, genetic variants may also affect non-immune related pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1949
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 14-Aug-2019


  • sepsis GWAS
  • cytokine QTLs
  • eQTL
  • functional genomics
  • PBMC transcriptome
  • endothelial response
  • FER locus

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