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Landscape of stimulation-responsive chromatin across diverse human immune cells

By Diego Calderon, Michelle L. T. Nguyen, Anja Mezger, Arwa Kathiria, Vinh Nguyen, Ninnia Lescano, Beijing Wu, John Trombetta, Jessica V. Ribado, David A Knowles, Ziyue Gao, Audrey V. Parent, Trevor D Burt, Mark S. Anderson, Lindsey A. Criswell, William J. Greenleaf, Alexander Marson, Jonathan K. Pritchard

Posted 05 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/409722 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41588-019-0505-9)

The immune system is controlled by a balanced interplay among specialized cell types transitioning between resting and stimulated states. Despite its importance, the regulatory landscape of this system has not yet been fully characterized. To address this gap, we collected ATAC-seq and RNA-seq data under resting and stimulated conditions for 25 immune cell types from peripheral blood of four healthy individuals, and seven cell types from three fetal thymus samples. We found that stimulation caused widespread chromatin remodeling, including a large class of response elements shared between stimulated B and T cells. Furthermore, several autoimmune traits showed significant heritability in stimulation-responsive elements from distinct cell types, highlighting the critical importance of these cell states in autoimmunity. Use of allele-specific read-mapping identified thousands of variants that alter chromatin accessibility in particular conditions. Notably, variants associated with changes in stimulation-specific chromatin accessibility were not enriched for associations with gene expression regulation in whole blood -- a tissue commonly used in eQTL studies. Thus, large-scale maps of variants associated with gene regulation lack a condition important for understanding autoimmunity. As a proof-of-principle we identified variant rs6927172, which links stimulated T cell-specific chromatin dysregulation in the TNFAIP3 locus to ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Overall, our results provide a broad resource of chromatin landscape dynamics and highlight the need for large-scale characterization of effects of genetic variation in stimulated cells.

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