Previous genome-wide association (GWA) studies typically focus on single-locus analysis, which may not have the power to detect the majority of genuinely associated loci. Here, we applied pathway analysis using Affymetrix SNP genotype data from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) and uncovered significant association between Crohn Disease (CD) and the IL12/IL23 pathway, harboring 20 genes (p = 8 × 10-5). Interestingly, the pathway contains multiple genes (IL12B and JAK2) or homologs of genes (STAT3 and CCR6) that were recently identified as genuine susceptibility genes only through meta-analysis of several GWA studies. In addition, the pathway contains other susceptibility genes for CD, including IL18R1, JUN, IL12RB1, and TYK2, which do not reach genome-wide significance by single-marker association tests. The observed pathway-specific association signal was subsequently replicated in three additional GWA studies of European and African American ancestry generated on the Illumina HumanHap550 platform. Our study suggests that examination beyond individual SNP hits, by focusing on genetic networks and pathways, is important to unleashing the true power of GWA studies.
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