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Genetic factors play an important role in determining the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). The strongest genetic association in MS is located within the major histocompatibility complex class II region (MHC), but more than 50 MS loci of modest effect located outside the MHC have now been identified. However, the relative candidate genes that underlie these associations and their functions are largely unknown. We conducted a protein-protein interaction (PPI) analysis of gene products coded in loci recently reported to be MS associated at the genome-wide significance level and in loci suggestive of MS association. Our aim was to identify which suggestive regions are more likely to be truly associated, which genes are mostly implicated in the PPI network and their expression profile. From three recent independent association studies, SNPs were considered and divided into significant and suggestive depending on the strength of the statistical association. Using the Disease Association Protein-Protein Link Evaluator tool we found that direct interactions among genetic products were significantly higher than expected by chance when considering both significant regions alone (p<0.0002) and significant plus suggestive (p<0.007). The number of genes involved in the network was 43. Of these, 23 were located within suggestive regions and many of them directly interacted with proteins coded within significant regions. These included genes such as SYK, IL-6, CSF2RB, FCLR3, EIF4EBP2 and CHST12. Using the gene portal BioGPS, we tested the expression of these genes in 24 different tissues and found the highest values among immune-related cells as compared to non-immune tissues (p<0.001). A gene ontology analysis confirmed the immune-related functions of these genes. In conclusion, loci currently suggestive of MS association interact with and have similar expression profiles and function as those significantly associated, highlighting the fact that more common variants remain to be found to be associated to MS.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Genetic Loci, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genome, Human, Genome-Wide Association Study, Histocompatibility Antigens Class II, Humans, Multiple Sclerosis, Organ Specificity, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Protein Interaction Mapping, Risk Factors