A genome- and phenome-wide association study to identify genetic variants influencing platelet count and volume and their pleiotropic effects

Hum Genet. 2014 Jan;133(1):95-109. doi: 10.1007/s00439-013-1355-7. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Platelets are enucleated cell fragments derived from megakaryocytes that play key roles in hemostasis and in the pathogenesis of atherothrombosis and cancer. Platelet traits are highly heritable and identification of genetic variants associated with platelet traits and assessing their pleiotropic effects may help to understand the role of underlying biological pathways. We conducted an electronic medical record (EMR)-based study to identify common variants that influence inter-individual variation in the number of circulating platelets (PLT) and mean platelet volume (MPV), by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS). We characterized genetic variants associated with MPV and PLT using functional, pathway and disease enrichment analyses; we assessed pleiotropic effects of such variants by performing a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) with a wide range of EMR-derived phenotypes. A total of 13,582 participants in the electronic MEdical Records and GEnomic network had data for PLT and 6,291 participants had data for MPV. We identified five chromosomal regions associated with PLT and eight associated with MPV at genome-wide significance (P < 5E-8). In addition, we replicated 20 SNPs [out of 56 SNPs (α: 0.05/56 = 9E-4)] influencing PLT and 22 SNPs [out of 29 SNPs (α: 0.05/29 = 2E-3)] influencing MPV in a published meta-analysis of GWAS of PLT and MPV. While our GWAS did not find any new associations, our functional analyses revealed that genes in these regions influence thrombopoiesis and encode kinases, membrane proteins, proteins involved in cellular trafficking, transcription factors, proteasome complex subunits, proteins of signal transduction pathways, proteins involved in megakaryocyte development, and platelet production and hemostasis. PheWAS using a single-SNP Bonferroni correction for 1,368 diagnoses (0.05/1368 = 3.6E-5) revealed that several variants in these genes have pleiotropic associations with myocardial infarction, autoimmune, and hematologic disorders. We conclude that multiple genetic loci influence interindividual variation in platelet traits and also have significant pleiotropic effects; the related genes are in multiple functional pathways including those relevant to thrombopoiesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Pleiotropy*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Hemostasis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mean Platelet Volume*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Platelet Count*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Thrombopoiesis / genetics