The evolutionary pressure of endemic malaria and other erythrocytic pathogens has shaped variation in genes encoding erythrocyte structural and functional proteins, influencing responses to hemolytic stress during transfusion and disease. We sought to identify such genetic variants in blood donors by conducting a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 12,353 volunteer donors, including 1,483 African Americans, 1,477 Asians, and 960 Hispanics, whose stored erythrocytes were characterized by quantitative assays of in vitro osmotic, oxidative, and cold-storage hemolysis. GWAS revealed 27 significant loci (p<5×10-8), many in candidate genes known to modulate erythrocyte structure, metabolism, and ion channels, including SPTA1, ALDH2, ANK1, HK1, MAPKAPK5, AQP1, PIEZO1, and SLC4A1/Band 3. GWAS of oxidative hemolysis identified variants in antioxidant enzymes including GLRX, GPX4, G6PD, and a novel golgi-transport protein SEC14L4. Genome wide significant loci were also tested for association with the severity of steady state (baseline) in vivo hemolytic anemia in patients with sickle cell disease, with confirmation of identified SNPs in HBA2, G6PD, PIEZO1, AQP1 and SEC14L4. Many of the identified variants, such as those in G6PD, have previously been shown to impair erythrocyte recovery after transfusion, associate with anemia, or cause rare Mendelian human hemolytic diseases. Candidate SNPs in these genes, especially in polygenic combinations, may affect RBC recovery after transfusion and modulate disease severity in hemolytic diseases, such as sickle cell disease and malaria.
Grier P. Page, Tamir Kanias, Yuelong John Guo, Marion C. Lanteri, Xu Zhang, Alan E. Mast, Ritchard G. Cable, Bryan R. Spencer, Joseph E. Kiss, Fang Fang, Stacy M. Endres-Dighe, Donald Brambilla, Mehdi Nouraie, Victor R. Gordeuk, Steve Kleinman, Michael P. Busch, Mark T. Gladwin