Independent and cumulative coeliac disease-susceptibility loci are associated with distinct disease phenotypes

J Hum Genet. 2021 Jun;66(6):613-623. doi: 10.1038/s10038-020-00888-5. Epub 2021 Jan 15.


The phenotype of coeliac disease varies considerably for incompletely understood reasons. We investigated whether established coeliac disease susceptibility variants (SNPs) are individually or cumulatively associated with distinct phenotypes. We also tested whether a polygenic risk score (PRS) based on genome-wide associated (GWA) data could explain the phenotypic variation. The phenotypic association of 39 non-HLA coeliac disease SNPs was tested in 625 thoroughly phenotyped coeliac disease patients and 1817 controls. To assess their cumulative effects a weighted genetic risk score (wGRS39) was built, and stratified by tertiles. In our PRS model in cases, we took the summary statistics from the largest GWA study in coeliac disease and tested their association at eight P value thresholds (PT) with phenotypes. Altogether ten SNPs were associated with distinct phenotypes after correction for multiple testing (PEMP2 ≤ 0.05). The TLR7/TLR8 locus was associated with disease onset before and the SH2B3/ATXN2, ITGA4/UBE2E3 and IL2/IL21 loci after 7 years of age. The latter three loci were associated with a more severe small bowel mucosal damage and SH2B3/ATXN2 with type 1 diabetes. Patients at the highest wGRS39 tertiles had OR > 1.62 for having coeliac disease-related symptoms during childhood, a more severe small bowel mucosal damage, malabsorption and anaemia. PRS was associated only with dermatitis herpetiformis (PT = 0.2, PEMP2 = 0.02). Independent coeliac disease-susceptibility loci are associated with distinct phenotypes, suggesting that genetic factors play a role in determining the disease presentation. Moreover, the increased number of coeliac disease susceptibility SNPs might predispose to a more severe disease course.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ataxin-2 / genetics
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / genetics*
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 8 / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • ATXN2 protein, human
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Ataxin-2
  • SH2B3 protein, human
  • TLR7 protein, human
  • TLR8 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7
  • Toll-Like Receptor 8