University Of Tasmania

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Novel plasma and brain proteins that are implicated in multiple sclerosis

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 15:59 authored by Lin, X, Yang, Y, Gresle, M, Cuellar-Partida, G, Han, X, Stankovich, J, Steve Simpson JRSteve Simpson JR, Valery Fuh NgwaValery Fuh Ngwa, Jac CharlesworthJac Charlesworth, Kathryn BurdonKathryn Burdon, Butzkueven, H, Bruce TaylorBruce Taylor, Yuan ZhouYuan Zhou

Understanding how variations in the plasma and brain proteome contribute to multiple sclerosis susceptibility can provide important insights to guide drug repurposing and therapeutic development for multiple sclerosis. However, the role of genetically predicted protein abundance in multiple sclerosis remains largely unknown.

Integrating plasma proteomics (n= 3,301) and brain proteomics (n = 376 discovery; n = 152 replication) into multiple sclerosis genome-wide association studies (n = 14,802 cases and 26,703 controls), we employed summary-based methods to identify candidate proteins involved in multiple sclerosis susceptibility. Next, we evaluated associations of the corresponding genes with multiple sclerosis at tissue-level using large gene expression quantitative trait data from whole-blood (n = 31,684) and brain (n = 1,194) tissue. Further, to assess transcriptional profiles for candidate proteins at cell-level, we examined gene expression patterns in immune cell types (dataset 1: n= 73 cases and 97 controls; dataset 2: n = 31 cases and 31 controls) for identified plasma proteins, and in brain cell types (dataset 1: n = 4 cases and 5 controls; dataset 2: n= 5 cases and 3 controls) for identified brain proteins. In a longitudinal multiple sclerosis cohort (n = 203 cases followed up to 15 years), we also assessed the corresponding gene-level associations with the outcome of disability worsening.

We identified 39 novel proteins associated with multiple sclerosis risk. Based on five identified plasma proteins, four available corresponding gene candidates showed consistent associations with multiple sclerosis risk in whole-blood, and we found TAPBPL upregulation in multiple sclerosis B cells, CD8+ T cells and natural killer cells compared to controls. Among the 34 candidate brain proteins, 18 were replicated in a smaller cohort and 14 of 21 available corresponding gene candidates also showed consistent associations with multiple sclerosis risk in brain tissue. In cell-specific analysis, six identified brain candidates showed consistent differential gene expression in neuron and oligodendrocyte cell clusters. Based on the 39 protein-coding genes, we found 23 genes that were associated with disability worsening in multiple sclerosis cases.

The findings present a set of candidate protein biomarkers for multiple sclerosis, reinforced by high concordance in downstream transcriptomics findings at tissue-level. This study also highlights the heterogeneity of cell-specific transcriptional profiles for the identified proteins, and that numerous candidates were also implicated in disease progression. Together, these findings can serve as an important anchor for future studies of disease mechanisms and therapeutic development.


Publication title





Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Oxford Univ Press

Place of publication

Great Clarendon St, Oxford, England, Ox2 6Dp

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biomedical and clinical sciences

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