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Functional dynamic genetic effects on gene regulation are specific to particular cell types and environmental conditions

By Anthony S Findley, Alan Monziani, Allison L Richards, Katherine Rhodes, Michelle C. Ward, Cynthia A Kalita, Adnan Alazizi, Ali Pazokitoroudi, Sriram Sankararaman, Xiaoquan Wen, David E Lanfear, Roger Pique-Regi, Yoav Gilad, Francesca Luca

Posted 31 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.29.428868

Genetic effects on gene expression and splicing can be modulated by cellular and environmental factors; yet interactions between genotypes, cell type and treatment have not been comprehensively studied together. We used an induced pluripotent stem cell system to study multiple cell types derived from the same individuals and exposed them to a large panel of treatments. Cellular responses involved different genes and pathways for gene expression and splicing processes, and were also highly variable across cell types and treatments. For thousands of genes, we identified variable allelic expression across contexts, and characterized different types of gene-environment interactions. Many of these GxE genes are associated with complex traits. We characterized promoter functional and evolutionary features that distinguish genes with elevated allelic imbalance mean and variance. More than 47% of the genes with dynamic regulatory interactions were missed by GTEx, but we identified them using a suitable allelic imbalance study design. This indicates the importance of exploring multiple treatments to reveal previously unrecognized regulatory loci that may be important for disease.

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