Bayesian Inference Associates Rare KDR Variants with Specific Phenotypes in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Emilia M. Swietlik, Daniel Greene, Na Zhu, Karyn Megy, Marcella Cogliano, Smitha Rajaram, Divya Pandya, Tobias Tilly, Katie A. Lutz, Carrie C.L. Welch, Michael W. Pauciulo, Laura Southgate, Jennifer M. Martin, Carmen M. Treacy, Christopher J. Penkett, Jonathan C. Stephens, Harm J. Bogaard, Colin Church, Gerry Coghlan, Anna W. ColemanRobin Condliffe, Christina A. Eichstaedt, Mélanie Eyries, Henning Gall, Stefano Ghio, Barbara Girerd, Ekkehard Grünig, Simon Holden, Luke Howard, Marc Humbert, David G. Kiely, Gabor Kovacs, Jim Lordan, Rajiv D. Machado, Robert V. Mackenzie Ross, Colm McCabe, Shahin Moledina, David Montani, Horst Olschewski, Joanna Pepke-Zaba, Laura Price, Christopher J. Rhodes, Werner Seeger, Florent Soubrier, Jay Suntharalingam, Mark R. Toshner, Anton Vonk Noordegraaf, John Wharton, James M. Wild, Stephen John Wort, Allan Lawrie, Martin R. Wilkins, Richard C. Trembath, Yufeng Shen, Wendy K. Chung, Andrew J. Swift, William C. Nichols, Nicholas W. Morrell, Stefan Gräf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Approximately 25% of patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) have been found to harbor rare mutations in disease-causing genes. To identify missing heritability in PAH, we integrated deep phenotyping with whole-genome sequencing data using Bayesian statistics. Methods: We analyzed 13 037 participants enrolled in the NBR study (NIHR BioResource-Rare Diseases), of which 1148 were recruited to the PAH domain. To test for genetic associations between genes and selected phenotypes of pulmonary hypertension, we used the Bayesian rare variant association method BeviMed. Results: Heterozygous, high impact, likely loss-of-function variants in the kinase insert domain receptor (KDR) gene were strongly associated with significantly reduced transfer coefficient for carbon monoxide (posterior probability=0.989) and older age at diagnosis (posterior probability=0.912). We also provide evidence for familial segregation of a rare nonsense KDR variant with these phenotypes. On computed tomographic imaging of the lungs, a range of parenchymal abnormalities were observed in the 5 patients harboring these predicted deleterious variants in KDR. Four additional PAH cases with rare likely loss-of-function variants in KDR were independently identified in the US PAH Biobank cohort with similar phenotypic characteristics. Conclusions: The Bayesian inference approach allowed us to independently validate KDR, which encodes for the VEGFR2 (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2), as a novel PAH candidate gene. Furthermore, this approach specifically associated high impact likely loss-of-function variants in the genetically constrained gene with distinct phenotypes. These findings provide evidence for KDR being a clinically actionable PAH gene and further support the central role of the vascular endothelium in the pathobiology of PAH.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCirculation: Genomic and Precision Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • computed tomography
  • family history
  • genetic association studies
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • vascular endothelial growth factor receptor

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