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Genome-wide meta-analysis of pneumonia suggests a role for mucin biology and provides novel drug repurposing opportunities

By William R Reay, Michael P Geaghan, 23andme Research Team, Murray J Cairns

Posted 26 Jan 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.24.21250424

Pneumonia remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, particularly amongst the elderly and young children. We performed a genome-wide meta-analysis of lifetime pneumonia diagnosis (N=266,277), that encompassed the largest collection of cases published to date. Genome-wide significant associations with pneumonia were uncovered for the first time beyond the major histocompatibility complex region, with three novel loci, including a signal fine-mapped to a cluster of mucin genes. Moreover, we demonstrated evidence of a polygenic effect of common and low frequency pneumonia associated variation impacting several other mucin genes and O-glycosylation, further suggesting a role for these processes in pneumonia pathophysiology. The pneumonia GWAS was then leveraged to identify drug repurposing opportunities, including evidence that supports the use of lipid modifying agents in the prevention and treatment of the disorder. We also propose how polygenic risk could be utilised for precision drug repurposing through pneumonia risk scores constructed using variants mapped to pathways with known drug targets. In summary, we provide novel insights into the genetic architecture of pneumonia susceptibility, with future study warranted to functionally interrogate novel association signals and evaluate the suitability of the compounds prioritised by this study as repositioning candidates.

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