Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in admixed populations such as African Americans (AA) have limited sample sizes, resulting in poor performance of polygenic risk scores (PRS). Based on the observations that many disease-causing genes are shared between AA and European ancestry (EA) populations, and some disease-causing variants are located within the boundaries of these genes, we proposed a novel gene-based PRS framework (PRSgene) by using variants located within disease-associated genes. Using the AA GWAS of alcohol use disorder (AUD) from the Million Veteran Program and the EA GWAS of problematic alcohol use as the discovery GWAS, we identified 858 variants from 410 genes that were AUD-related in both AA and EA. PRSgene calculated using these variants were significantly associated with AUD in three AA target datasets (P-values ranged from 7.61E-05 to 6.27E-03; Betas ranged from 0.15 to 0.21) and outperformed PRS calculated using all variants (P-values ranged from 7.28E-03 to 0.16; Betas ranged from 0.06 to 0.18). PRSgene were also associated with AUD in an EA target dataset (P-value = 0.02, Beta = 0.11). In AA, individuals in the highest PRSgene decile had an odds ratio of 1.76 (95% CI: 1.32-2.34) to develop AUD compared to those in the lowest decile. The 410 genes were enriched in 54 Gene Ontology biological processes, including ethanol oxidation and processes involving the synaptic system, which are known to be AUD-related. In addition, 26 genes were targets of drugs used to treat AUD or other diseases that might be considered for repurposing to treat AUD. Our study demonstrated that the gene-based PRS had improved performance in evaluating AUD risk in AA and provided new insight into AUD genetics.
© 2022. The Author(s).