Numerous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been performed to identify susceptibility genes to various human complex diseases. However, in many cases, neither a functional variant nor a disease susceptibility gene have been clarified. Here, we show an efficient approach for identification of a functional variant in a primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)-susceptible region, chromosome 17q12- 21 (ORMDL3-GSDMB-ZPBP2-IKZF3). High-density association mapping was carried out based on SNP imputation analysis by using the whole-genome sequence data from a reference panel of 1,070 Japanese individuals (1KJPN), together with genotype data from our previous GWAS (PBC patients: n = 1,389; healthy controls: n = 1,508). Among 23 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with P < 1.0 × 10-8, rs12946510 was identified as the functional variant that influences gene expression via alteration of Forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1) binding affinity in vitro. Moreover, expressionquantitative trait locus (e-QTL) analyses showed that the PBC susceptibility allele of rs12946510 was significantly associated with lower endogenous expression of ORMDL3 and GSDMB in whole blood and spleen. This study not only identified the functional variant in chr.17q12-21 and its molecular mechanism through which it conferred susceptibility to PBC, but it also illustrated an efficient systematic approach for post-GWAS analysis that is applicable to other complex diseases.
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