Genome-wide association study identifies genetic variants influencing F-cell levels in sickle-cell patients

Pallav Bhatnagar, Shirley Purvis, Emily Barron-Casella, Michael R. DeBaun, James F. Casella, Dan E. Arking, Jeffrey R. Keefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fetal hemoglobin (HbF) level has emerged as an important prognostic factor in sickle-cell disease (SCD) and can be measured by the proportion of HbF-containing erythrocytes (F-cells). Recently, BCL11A (zinc-finger protein) was identified as a regulator of HbF, and the strongest association signals were observed either directly for rs766432 or for correlated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). To identify additional independently associated genetic variants, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on the proportion of F-cells in individuals of African ancestry with SCD from the Silent Infarct Transfusion (SIT) Trial cohort. Our study not only confirms the association of rs766432 (P-value < 3.32 × 10-13), but also identifies an independent novel intronic SNP, rs7606173, associated with F-cells (P-value < 1.81 × 10-15). The F-cell variances explained independently by these two SNPs are ∼13% (rs7606173) and ∼11% (rs766432), whereas, together they explain ∼16%. Additionally, in men, we identify a novel locus on chromosome 17, glucagon-like peptide-2 receptor (GLP2R), associated with F-cell regulation (rs12103880; P-value <3.41 × 10-8). GLP2R encodes a G protein-coupled receptor and involved in proliferative and anti-apoptotic cellular responses. These findings highlight the importance of denser genetic screens and suggest further exploration of the BCL11A and GLP2R loci to gain additional insight into HbF/F-cell regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-323
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Human Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • BCL11A
  • F-cell regulation
  • GLP2R
  • GWAS
  • SIT Trial cohort
  • fetal hemoglobin
  • sickle-cell disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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