Large-scale meta-analysis across East Asian and European populations updated genetic architecture and variant-driven biology of rheumatoid arthritis, identifying 11 novel susceptibility loci.
Nearly 110 susceptibility loci for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with modest effect sizes have been identified by population-based genetic association studies, suggesting a large number of undiscovered variants behind a highly polygenic genetic architecture of RA. Here, we performed the largest-ever trans-ancestral meta-analysis with the aim to identify new RA loci and to better understand RA biology underlying genetic associations.Genome-wide RA association summary statistics in three large case-control collections consisting of 311 292 individuals of Korean, Japanese and European populations were used in an inverse-variance-weighted fixed-effects meta-analysis. Several computational analyses using public omics resources were conducted to prioritise causal variants and genes, RA variant-implicating features (tissues, pathways and transcription factors) and potentially repurposable drugs for RA treatment.We identified 11 new RA susceptibility loci that explained 6.9% and 1.8% of the single-nucleotide polymorphism-based heritability in East Asians and Europeans, respectively, and confirmed 71 known non-human leukocyte antigens (HLA) susceptibility loci, identifying 90 independent association signals. The RA variants were preferentially located in binding sites of various transcription factors and in cell type-specific transcription-activation histone marks that simultaneously highlighted the importance of CD4+ T-cell activation and the potential role of non-immune organs in RA pathogenesis. A total of 615 plausible effector genes, based on gene-based associations, expression-associated variants and chromatin interaction, included targets of drugs approved for RA treatments and potentially repurposable drugs approved for other indications.Our findings provide useful insights regarding RA genetic aetiology and variant-driven RA pathogenesis.