Combinatorial effects of multiple enhancer variants in linkage disequilibrium dictate levels of gene expression to confer susceptibility to common traits.
ABSTRACT DNA variants (SNPs) that predispose to common traits often localize within noncoding regulatory elements such as enhancers. Moreover, loci identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) often contain multiple SNPs in linkage disequilibrium (LD), any of which may be causal. Thus, determining the effect of these multiple variant SNPs on target transcript levels has been a major challenge. Here, we provide evidence that for six common autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and ulcerative colitis), the GWAS-association arises from multiple polymorphisms in LD that map to clusters of enhancer elements active in the same cell type. This finding suggests a "multiple enhancer variant" hypothesis for common traits, where several variants in LD impact multiple enhancers and cooperatively affect gene expression. Using a novel method to delineate enhancer-gene interactions, we show that multiple enhancer variants within a given locus typically target the same gene. Using available data from HapMap and B lymphoblasts as a model system, we provide evidence at numerous loci that multiple enhancer variants cooperatively contribute to altered expression of their gene targets. The effects on target transcript levels tend to be modest and can be either gain- or loss-of-function. Additionally, the genes associated with multiple enhancer variants encode proteins that are often functionally related and enriched in common pathways. Overall, the multiple enhancer variant hypothesis offers a new paradigm by which noncoding variants can confer susceptibility to common traits.
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ABSTRACT: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) identified the MEIS1 locus for Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), but causal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and their functional relevance remain unknown. This locus contains a large number of highly conserved noncoding regions (HCNRs) potentially functioning as cis-regulatory modules. We analyzed these HCNRs for allele-dependent enhancer activity in zebrafish and mice and found that the risk allele of the lead SNP rs12469063 reduces enhancer activity in the Meis1 expression domain of the murine embryonic ganglionic eminences (GE). CREB1 binds this enhancer and rs12469063 affects its binding in vitro. In addition, MEIS1 target genes suggest a role in the specification of neuronal progenitors in the GE, and heterozygous Meis1-deficient mice exhibit hyperactivity, resembling the RLS phenotype. Thus, in vivo and in vitro analysis of a common SNP with small effect size showed allele-dependent function in the prospective basal ganglia representing the first neurodevelopmental region implicated in RLS.Genome Research 03/2014; DOI:10.1101/gr.166751.113 · 13.85 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: GWAS have identified a breast cancer susceptibility locus on 2q35. Here we report the fine mapping of this locus using data from 101,943 subjects from 50 case-control studies. We genotype 276 SNPs using the 'iCOGS' genotyping array and impute genotypes for a further 1,284 using 1000 Genomes Project data. All but two, strongly correlated SNPs (rs4442975 G/T and rs6721996 G/A) are excluded as candidate causal variants at odds against >100:1. The best functional candidate, rs4442975, is associated with oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) disease with an odds ratio (OR) in Europeans of 0.85 (95% confidence interval=0.84-0.87; P=1.7 × 10(-43)) per t-allele. This SNP flanks a transcriptional enhancer that physically interacts with the promoter of IGFBP5 (encoding insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 5) and displays allele-specific gene expression, FOXA1 binding and chromatin looping. Evidence suggests that the g-allele confers increased breast cancer susceptibility through relative downregulation of IGFBP5, a gene with known roles in breast cell biology.Nature Communications 09/2014; DOI:10.1038/ncomms5999 · 10.74 Impact Factor