Abstract

Background: Bone mineral density (BMD) is a heritable phenotype that predicts fracture risk. We performed fine-mapping by targeted sequencing at WLS, MEF2C, ARHGAP1/F2 and JAG1 loci prioritized by eQTL and bioinformatic approaches among 56 BMD loci from our previous GWAS meta-analysis. Methods and Results: Targeted sequencing was conducted in 1,291 Caucasians from the Framingham Heart Study (n = 925) and Cardiovascular Health Study (n = 366), including 206 women and men with extreme low femoral neck (FN) BMD. A total of 4,964 sequence variants (SNVs) were observed and 80% were rare with MAF <1%. The associations between previously identified SNPs in these loci and BMD, while nominally significant in sequenced participants, were no longer significant after multiple testing corrections. Conditional analyses did not find protein-coding variants that may be responsible for GWAS signals. On the other hand, in the sequenced subjects, we identified novel associations in WLS, ARHGAP1, and 5’ of MEF2C (P-values < 8x10 5; false discovery rate (FDR) q-values < 0.01) that were much more strongly associated with BMD compared to the GWAS SNPs. These associated SNVs are less-common; independent from previous GWAS signals in the same loci; and located in gene regulatory elements. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that protein-coding variants in selected GWAS loci did not contribute to GWAS signals. By performing targeted sequencing in GWAS loci, we identified less-common and rare non-coding SNVs associated with BMD independently from GWAS common SNPs, suggesting both common and less-common variants may associate with disease risks and phenotypes in the same loci.

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