Genome-Wide Significant Loci: How Important Are They? Systems Genetics to Understand Heritability of Coronary Artery Disease and other Common Complex Disorders

Björkegren JL, Kovacic JC, Dudley JT, Schadt EE

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been extensively used to study common complex diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD), revealing 153 suggestive CAD loci, of which at least 46 have been validated as having genome-wide significance. However, these loci collectively explain <10% of the genetic variance in CAD. Thus, we must address the key question of what factors constitute the remaining 90% of CAD heritability. We review possible limitations of GWAS, and contextually consider some candidate CAD loci identified by this method. Looking ahead, we propose systems genetics as a complementary approach to unlocking the CAD heritability and etiology. Systems genetics builds network models of relevant molecular processes by combining genetic and genomic datasets to ultimately identify key "drivers" of disease. By leveraging systems-based genetic approaches, we can help reveal the full genetic basis of common complex disorders, enabling novel diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities.