Background: The t(14;18)(q32;q21) translocation is the most commonly observed chromosomal translocation in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), resulting in constitutive Bcl-2 expression and apoptosis inhibition. In addition, germline variation in both BCL2L11 (BIM) and CASP9, known regulators of apoptosis, has recently been linked to NHL risk. We conducted a comprehensive evaluation of 36 apoptosis pathway genes with risk of NHL. Methods: We genotyped 226 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) from 36 candidate genes in a clinic-based study of 441 newly diagnosed NHL cases and 475 frequency-matched controls. We used principal components analysis to assess gene-level associations, and logistic regression to assess SNP-level associations. MACH was used for imputation of SNPs in BCL2L11 and CASP9. Results: In gene-level analyses, BCL2L11 (P = 0.0019), BCLAF1 (P = 0.0097), BAG5 (P = 0.026), and CASP9 (P = 0.0022) were associated with NHL risk after accounting for multiple testing (tail strength, 0.38; 95% confidence interval, 0.05-0.70). Two of the five BCL2L11 tagSNPs (rs6746608 and rs12613243), both genotyped BCLAF1 tagSNPs (rs797558 and rs703193), the single genotyped BAG5 tagSNP (rs7693), and three of the seven genotyped CASP9 tagSNPs (rs6685648, rs2020902, and rs2042370) were significant at P < 0.05. We successfully imputed BCL2L11 and CASP9 SNPs previously linked to NHL, and replicated all four BCL2L11 and two of three CASP9 SNPs. Conclusion: We replicated the association of BCL2L11 and CASP9 with NHL risk at the gene and SNP level, and identified novel associations with BCLAF1 and BAG5. Impact: Closer evaluation of germline variation of genes in the apoptosis pathway with risk of NHL and its subtypes is warranted.
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