Single-cell multiomics of the human retina reveals hierarchical transcription factor collaboration in mediating cell type-specific effects of genetic variants on gene regulation

Jun Wang, Xuesen Cheng, Qingnan Liang, Leah A. Owen, Jiaxiong Lu, Yiqiao Zheng, Meng Wang, Shiming Chen, Margaret M. DeAngelis, Yumei Li, Rui Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Systematic characterization of how genetic variation modulates gene regulation in a cell type-specific context is essential for understanding complex traits. To address this question, we profile gene expression and chromatin accessibility in cells from healthy retinae of 20 human donors through single-cell multiomics and genomic sequencing. Results: We map eQTL, caQTL, allelic-specific expression, and allelic-specific chromatin accessibility in major retinal cell types. By integrating these results, we identify and characterize regulatory elements and genetic variants effective on gene regulation in individual cell types. The majority of identified sc-eQTLs and sc-caQTLs display cell type-specific effects, while the cis-elements containing genetic variants with cell type-specific effects are often accessible in multiple cell types. Furthermore, the transcription factors whose binding sites are perturbed by genetic variants tend to have higher expression levels in the cell types where the variants exert their effects, compared to the cell types where the variants have no impact. We further validate our findings with high-throughput reporter assays. Lastly, we identify the enriched cell types, candidate causal variants and genes, and cell type-specific regulatory mechanism underlying GWAS loci. Conclusions: Overall, genetic effects on gene regulation are highly context dependent. Our results suggest that cell type-dependent genetic effect is driven by precise modulation of both trans-factor expression and chromatin accessibility of cis-elements. Our findings indicate hierarchical collaboration among transcription factors plays a crucial role in mediating cell type-specific effects of genetic variants on gene regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number269
JournalGenome biology
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • ASCA
  • ASE
  • Cell type-specific effect
  • Gene regulation
  • Genetic variants
  • Single-cell multiomics
  • The human retina
  • Transcription factor collaboration
  • caQTL
  • eQTL

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