Nature Research, Nature Genetics, 3(48), p. 245-252
Many genetic variants influence complex traits by modulating gene expression, thus altering the abundance levels of one or multiple proteins. Here, we introduce a powerful strategy that integrates gene expression measurements with summary association statistics from large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify genes whose cis-regulated expression is associated to complex traits. We leverage expression imputation to perform a transcriptome wide association scan (TWAS) to identify significant expression-trait associations. We applied our approaches to expression data from blood and adipose tissue measured in ~3,000 individuals overall. We imputed gene expression into GWAS data from over 900,000 phenotype measurements to identify 69 novel genes significantly associated to obesity-related traits (BMI, lipids, and height). Many of the novel genes are associated with relevant phenotypes in the Hybrid Mouse Diversity Panel. Our results showcase the power of integrating genotype, gene expression and phenotype to gain insights into the genetic basis of complex traits.