Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a multifactorial malignancy closely associated with genetic factors and Epstein-Barr virus infection. To identify the common genetic variants linked to NPC susceptibility, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 277 NPC patients and 285 healthy controls within the Taiwanese population, analyzing 480,365 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Twelve statistically significant SNPs were identified and mapped to chromosome 6p21.3. Associations were replicated in two independent sets of case-control samples. Two of the most significant SNPs (rs2517713 and rs2975042; pcombined = 3.9 × 10-20 and 1.6 × 10-19, respectively) were located in the HLA-A gene. Moreover, we detected significant associations between NPC and two genes: specifically, gamma aminobutyric acid b receptor 1 (GABBR1) (rs29232; pcombined = 8.97 × 10-17) and HLA-F (rs3129055 and rs9258122; pcombined = 7.36 × 10-11 and 3.33 × 10-10, respectively). Notably, the association of rs29232 remained significant (residual p < 5 × 10-4) after adjustment for age, gender, and HLA-related SNPs. Furthermore, higher GABAB receptor 1 expression levels can be found in the tumor cells in comparison to the adjacent epithelial cells (p < 0.001) in NPC biopsies, implying a biological role of GABBR1 in NPC carcinogenesis. To our knowledge, it is the first GWAS report of NPC showing that multiple loci (HLA-A, HLA-F, and GABBR1) within chromosome 6p21.3 are associated with NPC. Although some of these relationships may be attributed to linkage disequilibrium between the loci, the findings clearly provide a fresh direction for the study of NPC development.
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