The resolution of causal genetic variants informs understanding of disease biology. We used regulatory quantitative trait loci (QTLs) from the BLUEPRINT, GTEx and eQTLGen projects to fine-map putative causal variants for 12 immune-mediated diseases. We identify 340 unique loci that colocalize with high posterior probability (≥98%) with regulatory QTLs and apply Bayesian frameworks to fine-map associations at each locus. We show that fine-mapping credible sets derived from regulatory QTLs are smaller compared to disease summary statistics. Further, they are enriched for more functionally interpretable candidate causal variants and for putatively causal insertion/deletion (INDEL) polymorphisms. Finally, we use massively parallel reporter assays to evaluate candidate causal variants at the ITGA4 locus associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Overall, our findings suggest that fine-mapping applied to disease-colocalizing regulatory QTLs can enhance the discovery of putative causal disease variants and enhance insights into the underlying causal genes and molecular mechanisms.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.