Mouse Genome-Wide Association Study of Preclinical Group II Pulmonary Hypertension Identifies Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor

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Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is associated with features of obesity and metabolic syndrome that translate to the induction of PH by chronic high-fat diet (HFD) in some inbred mouse strains. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify candidate genes associated with susceptibility to HFD-induced PH. Mice from 36 inbred and wild-derived strains were fed with regular diet or HFD for 20 weeks beginning at 6-12 weeks of age, after which right ventricular (RV) and left ventricular (LV) end-systolic pressure (ESP) and maximum pressure (MaxP) were measured by cardiac catheterization. We tested for association of RV MaxP and RV ESP and identified genomic regions enriched with nominal associations to both of these phenotypes. We excluded genomic regions if they were also associated with LV MaxP, LV ESP, or body weight. Genes within significant regions were scored based on the shortest-path betweenness centrality, a measure of network connectivity, of their human orthologs in a gene interaction network of human PH-related genes. WSB/EiJ, NON/ShiLtJ, and AKR/J mice had the largest increases in RV MaxP after high-fat feeding. Network-based scoring of GWAS candidates identified epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr) as having the highest shortest-path betweenness centrality of GWAS candidates. Expression studies of lung homogenate showed that EGFR expression is increased in the AKR/J strain, which developed a significant increase in RV MaxP after high-fat feeding as compared with C57BL/6J, which did not. Our combined GWAS and network-based approach adds evidence for a role for Egfr in murine PH.

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