GWAS of three molecular traits highlights core genes and pathways alongside a highly polygenic background.
Insights into the genetic architecture of the human face.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been used to study the genetic basis of a wide variety of complex diseases and other traits. We describe UK Biobank GWAS results for three molecular traits-urate, IGF-1, and testosterone-with better-understood biology than most other complex traits. We find that many of the most significant hits are readily interpretable. We observe huge enrichment of associations near genes involved in the relevant biosynthesis, transport, or signaling pathways. We show how GWAS data illuminate the biology of each trait, including differences in testosterone regulation between females and males. At the same time, even these molecular traits are highly polygenic, with many thousands of variants spread across the genome contributing to trait variance. In summary, for these three molecular traits we identify strong enrichment of signal in putative core gene sets, even while most of the SNP-based heritability is driven by a massively polygenic background.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.58615
View details for PubMedID 33587031
Quantitative analysis of Y-Chromosome gene expression across 36 human tissues.
The human face is complex and multipartite, and characterization of its genetic architecture remains challenging. Using a multivariate genome-wide association study meta-analysis of 8,246 European individuals, we identified 203 genome-wide-significant signals (120 also study-wide significant) associated with normal-range facial variation. Follow-up analyses indicate that the regions surrounding these signals are enriched for enhancer activity in cranial neural crest cells and craniofacial tissues, several regions harbor multiple signals with associations to different facial phenotypes, and there is evidence for potential coordinated actions of variants. In summary, our analyses provide insights into the understanding of how complex morphological traits are shaped by both individual and coordinated genetic actions.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41588-020-00741-7
View details for PubMedID 33288918
Conservation, acquisition, and functional impact of sex-biased gene expression in mammals.
Science (New York, N.Y.)
2019; 365 (6450)
Little is known about how human Y-Chromosome gene expression directly contributes to differences between XX (female) and XY (male) individuals in nonreproductive tissues. Here, we analyzed quantitative profiles of Y-Chromosome gene expression across 36 human tissues from hundreds of individuals. Although it is often said that Y-Chromosome genes are lowly expressed outside the testis, we report many instances of elevated Y-Chromosome gene expression in a nonreproductive tissue. A notable example is EIF1AY, which encodes eukaryotic translation initiation factor 1A Y-linked, together with its X-linked homolog EIF1AX Evolutionary loss of a Y-linked microRNA target site enabled up-regulation of EIF1AY, but not of EIF1AX, in the heart. Consequently, this essential translation initiation factor is nearly twice as abundant in male as in female heart tissue at the protein level. Divergence between the X and Y Chromosomes in regulatory sequence can therefore lead to tissue-specific Y-Chromosome-driven sex biases in expression of critical, dosage-sensitive regulatory genes.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.261248.120
View details for PubMedID 32461223
Mammalian germ cells are determined after PGC colonization of the nascent gonad.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Sex differences abound in human health and disease, as they do in other mammals used as models. The extent to which sex differences are conserved at the molecular level across species and tissues is unknown. We surveyed sex differences in gene expression in human, macaque, mouse, rat, and dog, across 12 tissues. In each tissue, we identified hundreds of genes with conserved sex-biased expression-findings that, combined with genomic analyses of human height, explain ~12% of the difference in height between females and males. We surmise that conserved sex biases in expression of genes otherwise operating equivalently in females and males contribute to sex differences in traits. However, most sex-biased expression arose during the mammalian radiation, which suggests that careful attention to interspecies divergence is needed when modeling human sex differences.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aaw7317
View details for PubMedID 31320509
Conserved microRNA targeting reveals preexisting gene dosage sensitivities that shaped amniote sex chromosome evolution.
2018; 28 (4): 474?83
Mammalian primordial germ cells (PGCs) are induced in the embryonic epiblast, before migrating to the nascent gonads. In fish, frogs, and birds, the germline segregates even earlier, through the action of maternally inherited germ plasm. Across vertebrates, migrating PGCs retain a broad developmental potential, regardless of whether they were induced or maternally segregated. In mammals, this potential is indicated by expression of pluripotency factors, and the ability to generate teratomas and pluripotent cell lines. How the germline loses this developmental potential remains unknown. Our genome-wide analyses of embryonic human and mouse germlines reveal a conserved transcriptional program, initiated in PGCs after gonadal colonization, that differentiates germ cells from their germline precursors and from somatic lineages. Through genetic studies in mice and pigs, we demonstrate that one such gonad-induced factor, the RNA-binding protein DAZL, is necessary in vivo to restrict the developmental potential of the germline; DAZL's absence prolongs expression of a Nanog pluripotency reporter, facilitates derivation of pluripotent cell lines, and causes spontaneous gonadal teratomas. Based on these observations in humans, mice, and pigs, we propose that germ cells are determined after gonadal colonization in mammals. We suggest that germ cell determination was induced late in embryogenesis-after organogenesis has begun-in the common ancestor of all vertebrates, as in modern mammals, where this transition is induced by somatic cells of the gonad. We suggest that failure of this process of germ cell determination likely accounts for the origin of human testis cancer.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1910733116
View details for PubMedID 31754036
Chemical sensing by nonequilibrium cooperative receptors.
Physical review letters
2013; 110 (24): 248102
Mammalian X and Y Chromosomes evolved from an ordinary autosomal pair. Genetic decay of the Y led to X Chromosome inactivation (XCI) in females, but some Y-linked genes were retained during the course of sex chromosome evolution, and many X-linked genes did not become subject to XCI. We reconstructed gene-by-gene dosage sensitivities on the ancestral autosomes through phylogenetic analysis of microRNA (miRNA) target sites and compared these preexisting characteristics to the current status of Y-linked and X-linked genes in mammals. Preexisting heterogeneities in dosage sensitivity, manifesting as differences in the extent of miRNA-mediated repression, predicted either the retention of a Y homolog or the acquisition of XCI following Y gene decay. Analogous heterogeneities among avian Z-linked genes predicted either the retention of a W homolog or gene-specific dosage compensation following W gene decay. Genome-wide analyses of human copy number variation indicate that these heterogeneities consisted of sensitivity to both increases and decreases in dosage. We propose a model of XY/ZW evolution incorporating such preexisting dosage sensitivities in determining the evolutionary fates of individual genes. Our findings thus provide a more complete view of the role of dosage sensitivity in shaping the mammalian and avian sex chromosomes and reveal an important role for post-transcriptional regulatory sequences (miRNA target sites) in sex chromosome evolution.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.230433.117
View details for PubMedID 29449410
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5880238
Cooperativity arising from local interactions in equilibrium receptor systems provides gain, but does not increase sensory performance, as measured by the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) due to a fundamental tradeoff between gain and intrinsic noise. Here we allow sensing to be a nonequilibrium process and show that energy dissipation cannot circumvent the fundamental tradeoff, so that the SNR is still optimal for independent receptors. For systems requiring high gain, nonequilibrium 2D-coupled receptors maximize the SNR, revealing a new design principle for biological sensors.
View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.248102
View details for PubMedID 25165963
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4114058