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Breast cancer risk is influenced by rare coding variants in susceptibility genes, such as BRCA1, and many common, mostly non-coding variants. However, much of the genetic contribution to breast cancer risk remains unknown. Here we report the results of a genome-wide association study of breast cancer in 122,977 cases and 105,974 controls of European ancestry and 14,068 cases and 13,104 controls of East Asian ancestry. We identified 65 new loci that are associated with overall breast cancer risk at P < 5 × 10. The majority of credible risk single-nucleotide polymorphisms in these loci fall in distal regulatory elements, and by integrating in silico data to predict target genes in breast cells at each locus, we demonstrate a strong overlap between candidate target genes and somatic driver genes in breast tumours. We also find that heritability of breast cancer due to all single-nucleotide polymorphisms in regulatory features was 2-5-fold enriched relative to the genome-wide average, with strong enrichment for particular transcription factor binding sites. These results provide further insight into genetic susceptibility to breast cancer and will improve the use of genetic risk scores for individualized screening and prevention.
Transposable element (TE)-derived sequences make up approximately half of most mammalian genomes, and many TEs have been co-opted into gene regulatory elements. However, we lack a comprehensive tissue- and genome-wide understanding of how and when TEs gain regulatory activity in their hosts. We evaluated the prevalence of TE-derived DNA in enhancers and promoters across hundreds of human and mouse cell lines and primary tissues. Promoters are significantly depleted of TEs in all tissues compared with their overall prevalence in the genome (P < 0.001); enhancers are also depleted of TEs, though not as strongly as promoters. The degree of enhancer depletion also varies across contexts (1.5-3×), with reproductive and immune cells showing the highest levels of TE regulatory activity in humans. Overall, in spite of the regulatory potential of many TE sequences, they are significantly less active in gene regulation than expected from their prevalence. TE age is predictive of the likelihood of enhancer activity; TEs originating before the divergence of amniotes are 9.2 times more likely to have enhancer activity than TEs that integrated in great apes. Context-specific enhancers are more likely to be TE-derived than enhancers active in multiple tissues, and young TEs are more likely to overlap context-specific enhancers than old TEs (86% vs. 47%). Once TEs obtain enhancer activity in the host, they have similar functional dynamics to one another and non-TE-derived enhancers, likely driven by pleiotropic constraints. However, a few TE families, most notably endogenous retroviruses, have greater regulatory potential. Our observations suggest a model of regulatory co-option in which TE-derived sequences are initially repressed, after which a small fraction obtains context-specific enhancer activity, with further gains subject to pleiotropic constraints.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.
The importance of epistasis-or statistical interactions between genetic variants-to the development of complex disease in humans has been controversial. Genome-wide association studies of statistical interactions influencing human traits have recently become computationally feasible and have identified many putative interactions. However, statistical models used to detect interactions can be confounded, which makes it difficult to be certain that observed statistical interactions are evidence for true molecular epistasis. In this study, we investigate whether there is evidence for epistatic interactions between genetic variants within the cis-regulatory region that influence gene expression after accounting for technical, statistical, and biological confounding factors. We identified 1,119 (FDR = 5%) interactions that appear to regulate gene expression in human lymphoblastoid cell lines, a tightly controlled, largely genetically determined phenotype. Many of these interactions replicated in an independent dataset (90 of 803 tested, Bonferroni threshold). We then performed an exhaustive analysis of both known and novel confounders, including ceiling/floor effects, missing genotype combinations, haplotype effects, single variants tagged through linkage disequilibrium, and population stratification. Every interaction could be explained by at least one of these confounders, and replication in independent datasets did not protect against some confounders. Assuming that the confounding factors provide a more parsimonious explanation for each interaction, we find it unlikely that cis-regulatory interactions contribute strongly to human gene expression, which calls into question the relevance of cis-regulatory interactions for other human phenotypes. We additionally propose several best practices for epistasis testing to protect future studies from confounding.
Copyright © 2016 American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Fertility traits in humans are heritable, however, little is known about the genes that influence reproductive outcomes or the genetic variants that contribute to differences in these traits between individuals, particularly women. To address this gap in knowledge, we performed an unbiased genome-wide expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) mapping study to identify common regulatory (expression) single nucleotide polymorphisms (eSNPs) in mid-secretory endometrium. We identified 423 cis-eQTLs for 132 genes that were significant at a false discovery rate (FDR) of 1%. After pruning for strong LD (r2 >0.95), we tested for associations between eSNPs and fecundability (the ability to get pregnant), measured as the length of the interval to pregnancy, in 117 women. Two eSNPs were associated with fecundability at a FDR of 5%; both were in the HLA region and were eQTLs for the TAP2 gene (P = 1.3x10-4) and the HLA-F gene (P = 4.0x10-4), respectively. The effects of these SNPs on fecundability were replicated in an independent sample. The two eSNPs reside within or near regulatory elements in decidualized human endometrial stromal cells. Our study integrating eQTL mapping in a primary tissue with association studies of a related phenotype revealed novel genes and associated alleles with independent effects on fecundability, and identified a central role for two HLA region genes in human implantation success.
Upon Notch pathway activation, the receptor is cleaved to release the Notch intracellular domain (NICD), which translocates to the nucleus to activate gene transcription. Using Xenopus egg extracts, we have identified a Notch1-specific destruction signal (N1-Box). We show that mutations in the N1-Box inhibit NICD1 degradation and that the N1-Box is transferable for the promotion of degradation of heterologous proteins in Xenopus egg extracts and in cultured human cells. Mutation of the N1-Box enhances Notch1 activity in cultured human cells and zebrafish embryos. Human cancer mutations within the N1-Box enhance Notch1 signaling in transgenic zebrafish, highlighting the physiological relevance of this destruction signal. We find that binding of the Notch nuclear factor, CSL, to the N1-Box blocks NICD1 turnover. Our studies reveal a mechanism by which degradation of NICD1 is regulated by the N1-Box to minimize stochastic flux and to establish a threshold for Notch1 pathway activation.
Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Human genomes hold a record of the evolutionary forces that have shaped our species. Advances in DNA sequencing, functional genomics, and population genetic modeling have deepened our understanding of human demographic history, natural selection, and many other long-studied topics. These advances have also revealed many previously underappreciated factors that influence the evolution of the human genome, including functional modifications to DNA and histones, conserved 3D topological chromatin domains, structural variation, and heterogeneous mutation patterns along the genome. Using evolutionary theory as a lens to study these phenomena will lead to significant breakthroughs in understanding what makes us human and why we get sick.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Accurate replication of DNA is imperative for the maintenance of genomic integrity. We identified Enhancer of Rudimentary Homolog (ERH) using a whole-genome RNA interference (RNAi) screen to discover novel proteins that function in the replication stress response. Here we report that ERH is important for DNA replication and recovery from replication stress. ATR pathway activity is diminished in ERH-deficient cells. The reduction in ATR signaling corresponds to a decrease in the expression of multiple ATR pathway genes, including ATR itself. ERH interacts with multiple RNA processing complexes, including splicing regulators. Furthermore, splicing of ATR transcripts is deficient in ERH-depleted cells. Transcriptome-wide analysis indicates that ERH depletion affects the levels of ∼1,500 transcripts, with DNA replication and repair genes being highly enriched among those with reduced expression. Splicing defects were evident in ∼750 protein-coding genes, which again were enriched for DNA metabolism genes. Thus, ERH regulation of RNA processing is needed to ensure faithful DNA replication and repair.
Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
Identification of microRNA expression quantitative trait loci (miR-eQTL) can yield insights into regulatory mechanisms of microRNA transcription, and can help elucidate the role of microRNA as mediators of complex traits. Here we present a miR-eQTL mapping study of whole blood from 5,239 individuals, and identify 5,269 cis-miR-eQTLs for 76 mature microRNAs. Forty-nine per cent of cis-miR-eQTLs are located 300-500 kb upstream of their associated intergenic microRNAs, suggesting that distal regulatory elements may affect the interindividual variability in microRNA expression levels. We find that cis-miR-eQTLs are highly enriched for cis-mRNA-eQTLs and regulatory single nucleotide polymorphisms. Among 243 cis-miR-eQTLs that were reported to be associated with complex traits in prior genome-wide association studies, many cis-miR-eQTLs miRNAs display differential expression in relation to the corresponding trait (for example, rs7115089, miR-125b-5p and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Our study provides a roadmap for understanding the genetic basis of miRNA expression, and sheds light on miRNA involvement in a variety of complex traits.
Proinflammatory stimuli elicit rapid transcriptional responses via transduced signals to master regulatory transcription factors. To explore the role of chromatin-dependent signal transduction in the atherogenic inflammatory response, we characterized the dynamics, structure, and function of regulatory elements in the activated endothelial cell epigenome. Stimulation with tumor necrosis factor alpha prompted a dramatic and rapid global redistribution of chromatin activators to massive de novo clustered enhancer domains. Inflammatory super enhancers formed by nuclear factor-kappa B accumulate at the expense of immediately decommissioned, basal endothelial super enhancers, despite persistent histone hyperacetylation. Mass action of enhancer factor redistribution causes momentous swings in transcriptional initiation and elongation. A chemical genetic approach reveals a requirement for BET bromodomains in communicating enhancer remodeling to RNA Polymerase II and orchestrating the transition to the inflammatory cell state, demonstrated in activated endothelium and macrophages. BET bromodomain inhibition abrogates super enhancer-mediated inflammatory transcription, atherogenic endothelial responses, and atherosclerosis in vivo.
Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), critical regulators of protein-coding genes, are likely to be coexpressed with neighboring protein-coding genes in the genome. How the genome integrates signals to achieve coexpression of lncRNA genes and neighboring protein-coding genes is not well understood. The lncRNA Tmevpg1 (NeST, Ifng-AS1) is critical for Th1-lineage-specific expression of Ifng and is coexpressed with Ifng. In this study, we show that T-bet guides epigenetic remodeling of Tmevpg1 proximal and distal enhancers, leading to recruitment of stimulus-inducible transcription factors, NF-κB and Ets-1, to the locus. Activities of Tmevpg1-specific enhancers and Tmevpg1 transcription are dependent upon NF-κB. Thus, we propose that T-bet stimulates epigenetic remodeling of Tmevpg1-specific enhancers and Ifng-specific enhancers to achieve Th1-lineage-specific expression of Ifng.
Copyright © 2014 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.