Genetic risk of osteoarthritis operates during human skeletogenesis

Sarah J Rice, Abby Brumwell, Julia Falk, Yulia S Kehayova, John Casement, Eleanor Parker, Ines M J Hofer, Colin Shepherd, John Loughlin
2022 Human Molecular Genetics  
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a polygenic disease of older people resulting in the breakdown of cartilage within articular joints. Although a leading cause of disability, there are no disease-modifying therapies. Evidence is emerging to support the origins of OA in skeletogenesis. Whilst methylation QTLs (mQTLs) co-localizing with OA GWAS signals have been identified in aged human cartilage and used to identify effector genes and variants, such analyses have never been conducted during human
more » ... t. Here, for the first time, we have investigated the developmental origins of OA genetic risk at seven well-characterized OA risk loci, comprising 39 OA-mQTL CpGs, in human foetal limb (FL) and cartilage (FC) tissues using a range of molecular genetic techniques. We compared our results to aged cartilage samples (AC) and identified significant OA-mQTLs at 14 CpGs and 29 CpGs in FL and FC tissues, respectively. Differential methylation was observed at 26 sites between foetal and aged cartilage, with the majority becoming actively hypermethylated in old age. Notably, 6/9 OA effector genes showed allelic expression imbalances during foetal development. Finally, we conducted ATAC-sequencing in cartilage from the developing and aged hip and knee to identify accessible chromatin regions, and found enrichment for transcription factor binding motifs including SOX9 and FOS/JUN. For the first time, we have demonstrated the activity of OA-mQTLs and expression imbalance of OA effector genes during skeletogenesis. We show striking differences in the spatiotemporal function of these loci, contributing to our understanding of OA aetiology, with implications for the timing and strategy of pharmacological interventions.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddac251 pmid:36209419 fatcat:akcro63mq5drze56cr2ofajlam