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Genome-wide causal mediation analysis identifies genetic loci associated with uterine fibroids mediated by age at menarche

Hum Reprod. 2022 Jun 11:deac136. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deac136. Online ahead of print.


STUDY QUESTION: Could the direct contribution of genetic variants to the pathophysiology of uterine fibroids and the contribution mediated by age at menarche be different?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Age at menarche plays a mediation role in the genetic influence on uterine fibroids, and four causal genetic mechanisms underlying the age at menarche-mediated effects of common genetic loci on uterine fibroid development were identified.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Uterine fibroids are common benign tumors developing from uterine smooth muscle. Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have identified over 30 genetic loci associated with uterine fibroids in different ethnic populations. Several genetic variations in or nearby these identified loci were also associated with early age at menarche, one of the major risk factors of uterine fibroids. Although the results of GWASs reveal how genetic variations affect uterine fibroids, the genetic mechanism of uterine fibroids mediated by age at menarche remains elusive.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: In this study, we conducted a genome-wide causal mediation analysis in two cohorts covering a total of 69 552 females of Han Chinese descent from the Taiwan Biobank (TWB). TWB is an ongoing community- and hospital-based cohort aiming to enroll 200 000 individuals from the general Taiwanese population between 30 and 70 years old. It has been enrolling Taiwanese study participants since 2012 and has extensive phenotypic data collected from 148 291 individuals as of May 2021.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: We recruited individuals in two cohorts, with 13 899 females in TWB1 and 55 653 females in TWB2. The two sets of individuals are almost distinct, with only 730 individuals enrolled in both cohorts. Over 99% of the participants are Han Chinese. Approximately 21% of participants developed uterine fibroids. DNA samples from both cohorts were genotyped using two different customized chips (TWB1 and TWB2 arrays). After quality control and genotype imputation, 646 973 TWB1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 686 439 TWB2 SNPs were assessed in our analysis. There were 99 939 SNPs which overlapped between the TWB1 and TWB2 arrays, 547 034 TWB1 array-specific SNPs and 586 500 TWB2 array-specific SNPs. We performed GWASs for screening potential risk SNPs for age at menarche and for uterine fibroids. We subsequently identified causal mediation effects of risk SNPs on uterine fibroids mediated by age at menarche.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: In addition to known loci at LIN28B associated with age at menarche and loci at WNT4 associated with uterine fibroids, we identified 162 SNPs in 77 transcripts that were associated with menarche-mediated causal effects on uterine fibroids via four different causal genetic mechanisms: a both-harmful group with 52 SNPs, a both-protective group with 34 SNPs, a mediator-harmful group with 22 SNPs and a mediator-protective group with 54 SNPs. Among these SNPs, rs809302 in SLK significantly increased the risk of developing uterine fibroids by 3.92% through a mechanism other than age at menarche (P < 10-10), and rs371721345 in HLA-DOB was associated with a 2.70% decreased risk (P < 10-10) in the occurrence of uterine fibroids, mediated by age at menarche. These findings provide insights into the mechanism underlying the effect of genetic loci on uterine fibroids mediated by age at menarche.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: A potential issue is that the present study relied upon self-reported age at menarche and uterine fibroid information. Due to the experimental design, the consistency between self-reports and medical records for uterine fibroids in Taiwan cannot be checked. Fortunately, the literature support that self-reporting even years later remains a practical means for collecting data on menarche and uterine fibroids. We found that the impact of under-reporting of uterine fibroids is less in our study. In addition, the rate of reporting a diagnosis of uterine fibroids was within the rates of medical diagnosis based on national health insurance data. Future work investigating the consistency between self-reports and medical records in Taiwan can remedy this issue.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This study is the first to investigate whether and to what extent age at menarche mediates the causal effects of genetic variants on uterine fibroids by using genome-wide causal mediation analysis. By treating age at menarche as a mediator, this report provides an insight into the genetic risk factors for developing uterine fibroids. Thus, this article represents a step forward in deciphering the role of intermediated risk factors in the genetic mechanism of disease.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by the China Medical University, Taiwan (CMU110-ASIA-13 and CMU107-Z-04), the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 110-2314-B-039-058) and the International Joint Usage/Research Center, the Institute of Medical Science, the University of Tokyo, Japan (K2104). The authors have no competing interests.


PMID:35689443 | DOI:10.1093/humrep/deac136

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