Genome-wide association study on 13 167 individuals identifies regulators of blood CD34+cell levels.

Lopez de Lapuente Portilla A, Ekdahl L, Cafaro C, Ali Z, Miharada N, Thorleifsson G, ┼Żemaitis K, Lamarca Arrizabalaga A, Thodberg M, Pertesi M, Dhapola P, Bao E, Niroula A, Bali D, Norddahl G, Ugidos Damboriena N, Sankaran VG, Karlsson G, Thorsteinsdottir U, Larsson J, Stefansson K, Nilsson B

Blood 139 (11) 1659-1669 [2022-03-17; online 2022-01-11]

Stem cell transplantation is a cornerstone in the treatment of blood malignancies. The most common method to harvest stem cells for transplantation is by leukapheresis, requiring mobilization of CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) from the bone marrow into the blood. Identifying the genetic factors that control blood CD34+ cell levels could reveal new drug targets for HSPC mobilization. Here we report the first large-scale, genome-wide association study on blood CD34+ cell levels. Across 13 167 individuals, we identify 9 significant and 2 suggestive associations, accounted for by 8 loci (PPM1H, CXCR4, ENO1-RERE, ITGA9, ARHGAP45, CEBPA, TERT, and MYC). Notably, 4 of the identified associations map to CXCR4, showing that bona fide regulators of blood CD34+ cell levels can be identified through genetic variation. Further, the most significant association maps to PPM1H, encoding a serine/threonine phosphatase never previously implicated in HSPC biology. PPM1H is expressed in HSPCs, and the allele that confers higher blood CD34+ cell levels downregulates PPM1H. Through functional fine-mapping, we find that this downregulation is caused by the variant rs772557-A, which abrogates an MYB transcription factor-binding site in PPM1H intron 1 that is active in specific HSPC subpopulations, including hematopoietic stem cells, and interacts with the promoter by chromatin looping. Furthermore, PPM1H knockdown increases the proportion of CD34+ and CD34+90+ cells in cord blood assays. Our results provide the first large-scale analysis of the genetic architecture of blood CD34+ cell levels and warrant further investigation of PPM1H as a potential inhibition target for stem cell mobilization.

Abhishek Niroula

DDLS Fellow

PubMed 35007327

DOI 10.1182/blood.2021013220

Crossref 10.1182/blood.2021013220

pii: S0006-4971(22)00038-6

Publications 9.5.0