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BACKGROUND: Genetic variants in the coding region could directly affect the structure and expression levels of genes and proteins. However, the importance of variants in the non-coding region, such as microRNAs (miRNAs), remain to be elucidated. Genetic variants in miRNA-related sequences could affect their biogenesis or functionality and ultimately affect disease risk. Yet, their implications and pleiotropic effects on many clinical conditions remain unknown. METHODS: Here, we utilised genotyping and hospital records data in the UK Biobank (N = 423,419) to investigate associations between 346 genetic variants in miRNA-related sequences and a wide range of clinical diagnoses through phenome-wide association studies. Further, we tested whether changes in blood miRNA expression levels could affect disease risk through colocalisation and Mendelian randomisation analysis. RESULTS: We identified 122 associations for six variants in the seed region of miRNAs, nine variants in the mature region of miRNAs, and 27 variants in the precursor miRNAs. These included associations with hypertension, dyslipidaemia, immune-related disorders, and others. Nineteen miRNAs were associated with multiple diagnoses, with six of them associated with multiple disease categories. The strongest association was reported between rs4285314 in the precursor of miR-3135b and celiac disease risk (odds ratio (OR) per effect allele increase = 0.37, P = 1.8 × 10-162). Colocalisation and Mendelian randomisation analysis highlighted potential causal role of miR-6891-3p in dyslipidaemia. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates the pleiotropic effect of miRNAs and offers insights to their possible clinical importance.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Genomics

Publication Date





Genetic variants, Phenome, Pleiotropy, microRNA, Humans, MicroRNAs, Biological Specimen Banks, Dyslipidemias, United Kingdom, Genome-Wide Association Study