A Three-Way Interaction among Maternal and Fetal Variants Contributing to Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) develop through a complex interplay between genetic variants, epigenetic modifications, and maternal environmental exposures. Genetic studies of CHDs have commonly tested single genetic variants for association with CHDs. Less attention has been given to complex gene-by-gene and gene-by-environment interactions. In this study, we applied a recently developed likelihood-ratio Mann-Whitney (LRMW) method to detect joint actions among maternal variants, fetal variants, and maternal environmental exposures, allowing for high-order statistical interactions. All subjects are participants from the National Birth Defect Prevention Study, including 623 mother-offspring pairs with CHD-affected pregnancies and 875 mother-offspring pairs with unaffected pregnancies. Each individual has 872 single nucleotide polymorphisms encoding for critical enzymes in the homocysteine, folate, and trans-sulfuration pathways. By using the LRMW method, three variants (fetal rs625879, maternal rs2169650, and maternal rs8177441) were identified with a joint association to CHD risk (nominal P-value = 1.13e-07). These three variants are located within genes BHMT2, GSTP1, and GPX3, respectively. Further examination indicated that maternal SNP rs2169650 may interact with both fetal SNP rs625879 and maternal SNP rs8177441. Our findings suggest that the risk of CHD may be influenced by both the intragenerational interaction within the maternal genome and the intergenerational interaction between maternal and fetal genomes.