Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), a chronic autoimmune liver disease, has been associated with increased incidence of osteoporosis. Intriguingly, two PBC susceptibility loci identified through genome-wide association studies are also involved in bone mineral density (BMD). These observations led us to investigate the genetic variants shared between PBC and BMD. We evaluated 72 genome-wide significant BMD SNPs for association with PBC using two European GWAS data sets (n = 8392), with replication of significant findings in a Chinese cohort (685 cases, 1152 controls). Our analysis identified a novel variant in the intron of the CLDN14 gene (rs170183, Pfdr = 0.015) after multiple testing correction. The three associated variants were followed-up in the Chinese cohort; one SNP rs170183 demonstrated consistent evidence of association in diverse ethnic populations (Pcombined = 2.43 × 10-5). Notably, expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) data revealed that rs170183 was correlated with a decline in CLDN14 expression in both lymphoblastoid cell lines and T cells (Padj = 0.003 and 0.016, respectively). In conclusion, our study identified a novel PBC susceptibility variant that has been shown to be strongly associated with BMD, highlighting the potential of pleiotropy to improve gene discovery.
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