Purpose:

Clonal hematopoiesis (CH) is thought to be the origin of myeloid neoplasms (MN). Yet, our understanding of the mechanisms driving CH progression to MN and clinical risk prediction of MN remains limited. The human proteome reflects complex interactions between genetic and epigenetic regulation of biological systems. We hypothesized that the plasma proteome might predict MN risk and inform our understanding of the mechanisms promoting MN development.

Experimental Design:

We jointly characterized CH and plasma proteomic profiles of 46,237 individuals in the UK Biobank at baseline study entry. During 500,036 person-years of follow-up, 115 individuals developed MN. Cox proportional hazard regression was used to test for an association between plasma protein levels and MN risk.

Results:

We identified 115 proteins associated with MN risk, of which 30% (N = 34) were also associated with CH. These were enriched for known regulators of the innate and adaptive immune system. Plasma proteomics improved the prediction of MN risk (AUC = 0.85; P = 5×10–9) beyond clinical factors and CH (AUC = 0.80). In an independent group (N = 381,485), we used inherited polygenic risk scores (PRS) for plasma protein levels to validate the relevance of these proteins to MN development. PRS analyses suggest that most MN-associated proteins we identified are not directly causally linked to MN risk, but rather represent downstream markers of pathways regulating the progression of CH to MN.

Conclusions:

These data highlight the role of immune cell regulation in the progression of CH to MN and the promise of leveraging multi-omic characterization of CH to improve MN risk stratification.

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Supplementary data