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Genetics of osteoarthritis

Lookup NU author(s): Guillaume Aubourg, Dr Sarah RiceORCiD, Professor John LoughlinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Osteoarthritis genetics has been transformed in the past decade through the application of large-scale genome-wide association scans. So far, over 100 polymorphic DNA variants have been associated with this common and complex disease. These genetic risk variants account for over 20% of osteoarthritis heritability and the vast majority map to non-protein coding regions of the genome where they are presumed to act by regulating the expression of target genes. Statistical fine mapping, in silico analyses of genomics data, and laboratory-based functional studies have enabled the identification of some of these targets, which encode proteins with diverse roles, including extracellular signaling molecules, intracellular enzymes, transcription factors, and cytoskeletal proteins. A large number of the risk variants correlate with epigenetic factors, in particular cartilage DNA methylation changes in cis, implying that epigenetics may be a conduit through which genetic effects on gene expression are mediated. Some of the variants also appear to have been selected as humans adapted to bipedalism, suggesting that a proportion of osteoarthritis genetic susceptibility results from antagonistic pleiotropy, with risk variants having a positive role in joint formation but a negative role in the long-term health of the joint. Although data from an osteoarthritis genetic study has not yet directly led to a novel treatment, some of the osteoarthritis associated genes code for proteins that have available therapeutics. Genetic investigations are therefore revealing fascinating fundamental insights into osteoarthritis and can expose options for translational intervention.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Aubourg G, Rice SJ, Bruce-Wootton P, Loughlin J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Osteoarthritis and Cartilage

Year: 2022

Volume: 30

Issue: 5

Pages: 636-649

Print publication date: 01/05/2022

Online publication date: 12/03/2021

Acceptance date: 06/03/2021

Date deposited: 26/03/2021

ISSN (print): 1063-4584

ISSN (electronic): 1522-9653

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.joca.2021.03.002

PubMed id: 33722698


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Funder referenceFunder name
20771VERSUS Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK)
JXR 10641