Monday, June 12, 2017

T2D Knowledge Portal now distills and summarizes genetic information for individual genes

The Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) Knowledge Portal presents genetic data relevant to T2D on two major types of page: Variant pages for individual variants, or SNPs; and Gene pages focusing on individual genes. Visual displays on Variant pages provide an immediate indication of the possible significance of each variant for T2D. But until now, Gene pages have presented large amounts of information from disparate sources without much integration or interpretation to guide the viewer.

Now, that has all changed with our release of the new Gene page. It guides researchers through an organized workflow that can help them take advantage of the aggregated data in the Portal to move from a variant of interest, to a gene of interest, to an assessment of the potential involvement of that gene’s product in T2D.

The central feature of the new Gene page is an at-a-glance display that summarizes the strength of the evidence for associations of the gene with T2D or related traits. An algorithm scans the comprehensive collection of datasets within the Portal to find data on variants in the gene, and the overall conclusion is shown by a “traffic light” icon. A green light indicates that there is strong evidence for association of at least one variant in the gene with at least one phenotype; a yellow light indicates that there is suggestive evidence, and a red light indicates that the data aggregated in the Portal contain no evidence for associations of variants within this gene.

Figure 1. Traffic light display for MTNR1B

Several sections of the page below the traffic light allow the user to drill down to much more information about the variants within the gene, their individual associations, and their collective impact on the disease burden of the gene. An interactive LocusZoom plot allows users to view the linkage disequilibrium relationships and associations from multiple datasets, with a wide variety of phenotypes, for common variants. The plot also displays the location of chromatin states, which can indicate the regulatory role of a region, in multiple tissues.

Figure 2. LocusZoom plot of the credible set of T2D-associated variants in MTNR1B (above) and chromatin state annotations for the region (below).

In the example shown above, the traffic light (Fig. 1) shows that variants in the MTNR1B gene encoding the melatonin receptor have one or more strong phenotypic associations (view the MTNR1B Gene page in the T2D Knowledge Portal). The table of common variants for MTNR1B (not shown) tells us that the most significantly associated variant is rs10830963. And a view of the LocusZoom plot for the credible set of variants associated with T2D (Fig. 2, top) shows that in fact the credible set for this region contains only rs10830963, further supporting its significance. The chromatin state annotations for this region (Fig. 2, bottom) provide evidence for a regulatory effect in pancreatic islets, consistent with a potential role in T2D. This information, easily found in the Portal today, replicates the results of a 2015 genetic analysis that required over 100 authors (Gaulton, KJ, et al. (2015) Nature Genetics 47:1415).

The new Gene page presents a lot of information and we can't cover it all in this space. But don't worry, we've created a guide to the page that explains every feature in detail. It's linked from the top of the page, or you can download it here.

With the inclusion of the new Gene page, the Portal now enables the rapid generation of testable hypotheses, by integrating, interpreting, and presenting information that previously could only be generated by coordinated research across a consortium. This new development brings the T2D Knowledge Portal project one step closer to informing the discovery of new targets and treatments for T2D.

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