Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) shows genetic predisposition, however, large-scale, powered gene mapping studies are lacking. We sought to exploit existing genetic (genotype) and epidemiological (questionnaire) data from a series of population-based cohorts for IBS genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and their meta-analysis. Based on questionnaire data compatible with Rome III Criteria, we identified a total of 1335 IBS cases and 9768 asymptomatic individuals from 5 independent European genotyped cohorts. Individual GWAS were carried out with sex-adjusted logistic regression under an additive model, followed by meta-analysis using the inverse variance method. Functional annotation of significant results was obtained via a computational pipeline exploiting ontology and interaction networks, and tissue-specific and gene set enrichment analyses. Suggestive GWAS signals (P â‰¤ 5.0 Ã— 10-6 ) were detected for 7 genomic regions, harboring 64 gene candidates to affect IBS risk via functional or expression changes. Functional annotation of this gene set convincingly (best FDR-corrected P = 3.1 Ã— 10-10 ) highlighted regulation of ion channel activity as the most plausible pathway affecting IBS risk. Our results confirm the feasibility of population-based studies for gene-discovery efforts in IBS, identify risk genes and loci to be prioritized in independent follow-ups, and pinpoint ion channels as important players and potential therapeutic targets warranting further investigation.