A functional genomics approach in Tanzanian population identifies distinct genetic regulators of cytokine production compared to European population

Collins K.Boahen12Godfrey S.Temba23Vesla I.Kullaya34VasilikiMatzaraki12Leo A.B.Joosten12GibsonKibiki45Blandina T.Mmbaga4Andrevan der Ven23Quirijnde Mast2Mihai G.Netea126VinodKumar1278
Publication year: 


Humans exhibit remarkable interindividual and interpopulation immune response variability upon microbial challenges. Cytokines play a vital role in regulating inflammation and immune responses, but dysregulation of cytokine responses has been implicated in different disease states. Host genetic factors were previously shown to significantly impact cytokine response heterogeneity mainly in European-based studies, but it is unclear whether these findings are transferable to non-European individuals. Here, we aimed to identify genetic variants modulating cytokine responses in healthy adults of East African ancestry from Tanzania. We leveraged both cytokine and genetic data and performed genome-wide cytokine quantitative trait loci (cQTLs) mapping. The results were compared with another cohort of healthy adults of Western European ancestry via direct overlap and functional enrichment analyses. We also performed meta-analyses to identify cQTLs with congruent effect direction in both populations. In the Tanzanians, cQTL mapping identified 80 independent suggestive loci and one genome-wide significant locus (TBC1D22A) at chromosome 22; SNP rs12169244 was associated with IL-1b release after Salmonella enteritidis stimulation. Remarkably, the identified cQTLs varied significantly when compared to the European cohort, and there was a very limited percentage of overlap (1.6% to 1.9%). We further observed ancestry-specific pathways regulating induced cytokine responses, and there was significant enrichment of the interferon pathway specifically in the Tanzanians. Furthermore, contrary to the Europeans, genetic variants in the TLR10-TLR1-TLR6 locus showed no effect on cytokine response. Our data reveal both ancestry-specific effects of genetic variants and pathways on cytokine response heterogeneity, hence arguing for the importance of initiatives to include diverse populations into genomics research.