Functional Analysis of a Novel Genome-Wide Association Study Signal in SMAD3 That Confers Protection From Coronary Artery Disease
Objective—A recent genome-wide association study meta-analysis identified an intronic single nucleotide polymorphism in SMAD3, rs56062135C>T, the minor allele (T) which associates with protection from coronary artery disease. Relevant to atherosclerosis, SMAD3 is a key contributor to transforming growth factor-β pathway signaling. Here, we seek to identify ≥1 causal coronary artery disease–associated single nucleotide polymorphisms at the SMAD3 locus and characterize mechanisms whereby the risk allele(s) contribute to coronary artery disease risk.
Approach and Results—By genetic and epigenetic fine mapping, we identified a candidate causal single nucleotide polymorphism rs17293632C>T (D′, 0.97; r2, 0.94 with rs56062135) in intron 1 of SMAD3 with predicted functional effects. We show that the sequence encompassing rs17293632 acts as a strong enhancer in human arterial smooth muscle cells. The common allele (C) preserves an activator protein (AP)-1 site and enhancer function, whereas the protective (T) allele disrupts the AP-1 site and significantly reduces enhancer activity (P<0.001). Pharmacological inhibition of AP-1 activity upstream demonstrates that this allele-specific enhancer effect is AP-1 dependent (P<0.001). Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments reveal binding of several AP-1 component proteins with preferential binding to the (C) allele. We show that rs17293632 is an expression quantitative trait locus for SMAD3 in blood and atherosclerotic plaque with reduced expression of SMAD3 in carriers of the protective allele. Finally, siRNA knockdown of SMAD3 in human arterial smooth muscle cells increases cell viability, consistent with an antiproliferative role.
Conclusions—The coronary artery disease–associated rs17293632C>T single nucleotide polymorphism represents a novel functional cis-acting element at the SMAD3 locus. The protective (T) allele of rs17293632 disrupts a consensus AP-1 binding site in a SMAD3 intron 1 enhancer, reduces enhancer activity and SMAD3 expression, altering human arterial smooth muscle cells proliferation.
- Received January 28, 2016.
- Accepted February 19, 2016.
- © 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.