OCT4 is a transcription factor of the POU family, which plays a key role in embryonic development and stem cell pluripotency. Previous studies have shown that Oct4 is required for cardiomyocyte differentiation in mice and its depletion could result in cardiac morphogenesis in embryo. However, whether the genetic variations in OCT4 coding gene, POU5F1, confer the predisposition to congenital heart disease (CHD) is unclear. This study sought to investigate the associations between low-frequency (defined here as having minor allele frequency (MAF) between 0.1%-5%) and rare (MAF below 0.1%) variants with potential function in POU5F1 and risk of CHD. We conducted association analysis in a two-stage case-control study with a total of 2,720 CHD cases and 3,331 controls in Chinese. The low-frequency variant rs3130933 was observed to be associated with a significantly increased risk of CHD [additive model: adjusted odds ratio (OR)=2.15, adjusted P=3.37×10 '6 ]. Furthermore, luciferase activity assay showed that the variant A allele led to significantly lower expression levels as compared to the G allele. These findings indicate for the first time that low-frequency functional variant in POU5F1 may contribute to the risk of congenital heart malformations.
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