Background: Genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified and validated more than 200 genomic loci associated with the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), although for most the causal gene remains unknown. Given the importance of myeloid cells in IBD pathogenesis, the current study aimed to uncover the role of genes within IBD genetic loci that are endogenously expressed in this cell lineage.
Methods: The open reading frames (ORF) of 42 genes from IBD-associated loci were expressed via lentiviral transfer in the THP-1 model of human monocytes and the impact of each of these on the cell's transcriptome was analyzed using a RNA sequencing-based approach. We used a combination of genetic and pharmacologic approaches to validate our findings in the THP-1 line with further validation in human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived-monocytes.
Results: This functional genomics screen provided evidence that genes in four IBD GWAS loci (PTGIR, ZBTB40, SLC39A11 and NFKB1) are involved in controlling S100A8 and S100A9 gene expression, which encode the two subunits of calprotectin (CP). We demonstrated that increasing PTGIR expression and/or stimulating PTGIR signaling resulted in increased CP expression in THP-1. This was further validated in hiPSC-derived monocytes. Conversely, knocking-down PTGIR endogenous expression and/or inhibiting PTGIR signaling led to decreased CP expression. These analyses were extended to the known IBD gene PTGER4, whereby its specific agonist also led to increased CP expression. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the PTGIR and PTGER4 mediated control of CP expression was dependent on signaling via adenylate cyclase and STAT3. Finally, we demonstrated that LPS-mediated increases in CP expression could be potentiated by agonists of PTGIR and PTGER4, and diminished by their antagonists.
Conclusion: Our results support a causal role for the PTGIR, PTGER4, ZBTB40, SLC39A11 and NFKB1 genes in IBD, with all five genes regulating the expression of CP in myeloid cells, as well as potential roles for the prostacyclin/prostaglandin biogenesis and signaling pathways in IBD susceptibility and pathogenesis.