Transcriptomic signatures across human tissues identify functional rare genetic variation
Details
Publication Year 2020, Volume 369, Issue #6509, Page eaaz5900
Journal Title
Science
Publication Type
Journal Article
Abstract
Every human genome contains tens of thousands of rare genetic variants—which include single nucleotide changes, insertions or deletions, and larger structural variants—and some may have a functional effect. Ferraro et al. examined data from individuals in the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project for outliers across tissues caused by gene expression, splicing, and allele-specific expression. Single rare variants were observed that affected the expression and allele-specific expression of multiple genes and, in the case of a gene fusion event, splicing. Experimental and computational validation suggest that many individuals carry more than 50 rare variants that affect transcription in some way. Although most variants were predicted to not affect an individual's phenotype, a small percentage showed likely disease-related associations, emphasizing the importance of studying the impact of rare genetic variation on the transcriptome.Science, this issue p. eaaz5900INTRODUCTIONThe human genome contains tens of thousands of rare (minor allele frequency <1%) variants, some of which contribute to disease risk. Using 838 samples with whole-genome and multitissue transcriptome sequencing data in the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project version 8, we assessed how rare genetic variants contribute to extreme patterns in gene expression (eOutliers), allelic expression (aseOutliers), and alternative splicing (sOutliers). We integrated these three signals across 49 tissues with genomic annotations to prioritize high-impact rare variants (RVs) that associate with human traits.RATIONALEOutlier gene expression aids in identifying functional RVs. Transcriptome sequencing provides diverse measurements beyond gene expression, including allele-specific expression and alternative splicing, which can provide additional insight into RV functional effects.RESULTSAfter identifying multitissue eOutliers, aseOutliers, and sOutliers, we found that outlier individuals of each type were significantly more likely to carry an RV near the corresponding gene. Among eOutliers, we observed strong enrichment of rare structural variants. sOutliers were particularly enriched for RVs that disrupted or created a splicing consensus sequence. aseOutliers provided the strongest enrichment signal when evaluated from just a single tissue.We developed Watershed, a probabilistic model for personal genome interpretation that improves over standard genomic annotation–based methods for scoring RVs by integrating these three transcriptomic signals from the same individual and replicates in an independent cohort.To assess whether outlier RVs identified in GTEx associate with traits, we evaluated these variants for association with diverse traits in the UK Biobank, the Million Veterans Program, and the Jackson Heart Study. We found that transcriptome-assisted prioritization identified RVs with larger trait effect sizes and were better predictors of effect size than genomic annotation alone.CONCLUSIONWith >800 genomes matched with transcriptomes across 49 tissues, we were able to study RVs that underlie extreme changes in the transcriptome. To capture the diversity of these extreme changes, we developed and integrated approaches to identify expression, allele-specific expression, and alternative splicing outliers, and characterized the RV landscape underlying each outlier signal. We demonstrate that personal genome interpretation and RV discovery is enhanced by using these signals. This approach provides a new means to integrate a richer set of functional RVs into models of genetic burden, improve disease gene identification, and enable the delivery of precision genomics.Transcriptomic signatures identify functional rare genetic variation.We identified genes in individuals that show outlier expression, allele-specific expression, or alternative splicing and assessed enrichment of nearby rare variation. We integrated these three outlier signals with genomic annotation data to prioritize functional RVs and to intersect those variants with dis ase loci to identify potential RV trait associations.Rare genetic variants are abundant across the human genome, and identifying their function and phenotypic impact is a major challenge. Measuring aberrant gene expression has aided in identifying functional, large-effect rare variants (RVs). Here, we expanded detection of genetically driven transcriptome abnormalities by analyzing gene expression, allele-specific expression, and alternative splicing from multitissue RNA-sequencing data, and demonstrate that each signal informs unique classes of RVs. We developed Watershed, a probabilistic model that integrates multiple genomic and transcriptomic signals to predict variant function, validated these predictions in additional cohorts and through experimental assays, and used them to assess RVs in the UK Biobank, the Million Veterans Program, and the Jackson Heart Study. Our results link thousands of RVs to diverse molecular effects and provide evidence to associate RVs affecting the transcriptome with human traits.
WEHI Research Division(s)
Advanced Technology And Biology
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