Primary osteoarthritis chondrocyte map of chromatin conformation reveals novel candidate effector genes

Norbert Bittner, Chenfu Shi, Danyun Zhao, James Ding, Lorraine Southam, Diane Swift, Peter Kreitmaier, Mauro Tutino, Odysseas Stergiou, Jackson T S Cheung, Georgia Katsoula, Jenny Hankinson, Jeremy Mark Wilkinson, Gisela Orozco, Eleftheria Zeggini.
Ann Rheum Dis. 2024-03-13;:ard-2023-224945.
Objectives Osteoarthritis is a complex disease with a huge public health burden. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of osteoarthritis-associated sequence variants, but the effector genes underpinning these signals remain largely elusive. Understanding chromosome organisation in three-dimensional (3D) space is essential for identifying long-range contacts between distant genomic features (e.g., between genes and regulatory elements), in a tissue-specific manner. Here, we generate the first whole genome chromosome conformation analysis (Hi-C) map of primary osteoarthritis chondrocytes and identify novel candidate effector genes for the disease. Methods Primary chondrocytes collected from 8 patients with knee osteoarthritis underwent Hi-C analysis to link chromosomal structure to genomic sequence. The identified loops were then combined with osteoarthritis GWAS results and epigenomic data from primary knee osteoarthritis chondrocytes to identify variants involved in gene regulation via enhancer-promoter interactions. Results We identified 345 genetic variants residing within chromatin loop anchors that are associated with 77 osteoarthritis GWAS signals. Ten of these variants reside directly in enhancer regions of 10 newly described active enhancer-promoter loops, identified with multiomics analysis of publicly available chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) and assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) data from primary knee chondrocyte cells, pointing to two new candidate effector genes SPRY4 and PAPPA (pregnancy-associated plasma protein A) as well as further support for the gene SLC44A2 known to be involved in osteoarthritis. For example, PAPPA is directly associated with the turnover of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) proteins, and IGF-1 is an important factor in the repair of damaged chondrocytes. Conclusions We have constructed the first Hi-C map of primary human chondrocytes and have made it available as a resource for the scientific community. By integrating 3D genomics with large-scale genetic association and epigenetic data, we identify novel candidate effector genes for osteoarthritis, which enhance our understanding of disease and can serve as putative high-value novel drug targets.