Skip to content

Integrating Mendelian randomization and multiple-trait colocalization to uncover cell-specific inflammatory drivers of autoimmune and atopic disease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3293-3300
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number19
DateAccepted/In press - 26 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Oct 2019


Immune-mediated diseases (IMDs) arise when tolerance is lost and chronic inflammation is targeted towards healthy tissues. Despite their growing prevalence, therapies to treat IMDs are lacking. Cytokines and their receptors orchestrate inflammatory responses by regulating elaborate signalling networks across multiple cell types making it challenging to pinpoint therapeutically relevant drivers of IMDs. We developed an analytical framework that integrates Mendelian randomization (MR) and multiple-trait colocalization (moloc) analyses to highlight putative cell-specific drivers of IMDs. MR evaluated causal associations between the levels of 10 circulating cytokines and 9 IMDs within human populations. Subsequently, we undertook moloc analyses to assess whether IMD trait, cytokine protein and corresponding gene expression are driven by a shared causal variant. Moreover, we leveraged gene expression data from three separate cell types (monocytes, neutrophils and T cells) to discern whether associations may be attributed to cell type-specific drivers of disease. MR analyses supported a causal role for IL-18 in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (P = 1.17 × 10-4) and eczema/dermatitis (P = 2.81 × 10-3), as well as associations between IL-2rα and IL-6R with several other IMDs. Moloc strengthened evidence of a causal association for these results, as well as providing evidence of a monocyte and neutrophil-driven role for IL-18 in IBD pathogenesis. In contrast, IL-2rα and IL-6R associations were found to be T cell specific. Our analytical pipeline can help to elucidate putative molecular pathways in the pathogeneses of IMDs, which could be applied to other disease contexts.

    Research areas

  • mendelian randomisation, multiple-trait colocalization, autoimmunity, atopy, cytokines, epidemiology

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (final published version)

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Oxford University Press at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 1.01 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY

  • Supplementary information PDF

    Final published version, 213 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups