Identification of genetic variants associated with susceptibility to West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease
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West Nile virus (WNV) infection results in a diverse spectrum of outcomes, and host genetics are likely to influence susceptibility to neuroinvasive disease (West Nile neuroinvasive disease (WNND)). We performed whole-exome sequencing of 44 individuals with WNND and identified alleles associated with severe disease by variant filtration in cases, kernel association testing in cases and controls and single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) imputation into a larger cohort of WNND cases and seropositive controls followed by genome-wide association analysis. Variant filtration prioritized genes based on the enrichment of otherwise rare variants, but did not unambiguously implicate variants shared by a majority of cases. Kernel association demonstrated enrichment for risk and protective alleles in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A and HLA-DQB1 loci that have well understood roles in antiviral immunity. Two loci, HERC5 and an intergenic region between CD83 and JARID2, were implicated by multiple imputed SNPs and exceeded genome-wide significance in a discovery cohort (n=862). SNPs at two additional loci, TFCP2L1 and CACNA1H, achieved genome-wide significance after association testing of directly genotyped and imputed SNPs in a discovery cohort (n=862) and a separate replication cohort (n=1387). The context of these loci suggests that immunoregulatory, ion channel and endothelial barrier functions may be important elements of the host response to WNV.
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