Gene expression and its regulation can vary substantially across tissue types. In order to generate knowledge about gene expression in human tissues, the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) program has collected transcriptome data in a wide variety of tissue types from post-mortem donors. However, many tissue types are difficult to access and are not collected in every GTEx individual. Furthermore, in non-GTEx studies, the accessibility of certain tissue types greatly limits the feasibility and scale of studies of multi-tissue expression. In this work, we developed multi-tissue imputation methods to impute gene expression in uncollected or inaccessible tissues. Via simulation studies, we showed that the proposed methods outperform existing imputation methods in multi-tissue expression imputation and that incorporating imputed expression data can improve power to detect phenotype-expression correlations. By analyzing data from nine selected tissue types in the GTEx pilot project, we demonstrated that harnessing expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and tissue-tissue expression-level correlations can aid imputation of transcriptome data from uncollected GTEx tissues. More importantly, we showed that by using GTEx data as a reference, one can impute expression levels in inaccessible tissues in non-GTEx expression studies.
Copyright © 2016 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.