Genome-wide association study of platelet factor 4/heparin antibodies in heparin-induced thrombocytopenia


Heparin, a widely used anticoagulant, carries the risk of an antibody-mediated adverse drug reaction, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). A subset of heparin-treated patients produces detectable levels of antibodies against complexes of heparin bound to circulating platelet factor 4 (PF4). Using a genome-wide association study (GWAS) approach, we aimed to identify genetic variants associated with anti-PF4/heparin antibodies that account for the variable antibody response seen in HIT. We performed a GWAS on anti-PF4/heparin antibody levels determined via polyclonal enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Our discovery cohort (n = 4237) and replication cohort (n = 807) constituted patients with European ancestry and clinical suspicion of HIT, with cases confirmed via functional assay. Genome-wide significance was considered at α = 5 × 10−8. No variants were significantly associated with anti-PF4/heparin antibody levels in the discovery cohort at a genome-wide significant level. Secondary GWAS analyses included the identification of variants with suggestive associations in the discovery cohort (α = 1 × 10−4). The top variant in both cohorts was rs1555175145 (discovery β = −0.112 [0.018], P = 2.50 × 10−5; replication β = −0.104 [0.051], P = .041). In gene set enrichment analysis, 3 gene sets reached false discovery rate-adjusted significance (q < 0.05) in both discovery and replication cohorts: “Leukocyte Transendothelial Migration,” “Innate Immune Response,” and “Lyase Activity.” Our results indicate that genomic variation is not significantly associated with anti-PF4/heparin antibody levels. Given our power to identify variants with moderate frequencies and effect sizes, this evidence suggests genetic variation is not a primary driver of variable antibody response in heparin-treated patients with European ancestry.

Blood Advances

My Contribution

Yes, this code is forked from my Manhattan plot. No, I do not agree with the choices in colors. Yes, my name is on this paper. No, my contributions were not included in the final version.

Heidi E. Steiner
Heidi E. Steiner
Senior Clinical Data Scientist

I love coding in R, biostatistics, and reproducible clinical research.