Genomic analysis of allele-specific expression in the mouse liverAshutosh K Pandey, Robert W Williams
Genetic differences in gene expression contribute significantly to phenotypic diversity and differences in disease susceptibility. In fact, the great majority of causal variants highlighted by genome-wide association are in non-coding regions that modulate expression. In order to quantify the extent of allelic differences in expression, we analyzed liver transcriptomes of isogenic F1 hybrid mice. Allele-specific expression (ASE) effects are pervasive and are detected in over 50% of assayed genes. Genes with strong ASE do not differ from those with no ASE with respect to their length or promoter complexity. However, they have a higher density of sequence variants, higher functional redundancy, and lower evolutionary conservation compared to genes with no ASE. Fifty percent of genes with no ASE are categorized as house-keeping genes. In contrast, the high ASE set may be critical in phenotype canalization. There is significant overlap between genes that exhibit ASE and those that exhibit strong cis expression quantitative trait loci (cis eQTLs) identified using large genetic expression data sets. Eighty percent of genes with cis eQTLs also have strong ASE effects. Conversely, 40% of genes with ASE effects are associated with strong cis eQTLs. Cis-acting variation detected at the protein level is also detected at the transcript level, but the converse is not true. ASE is a highly sensitive and direct method to quantify cis-acting variation in gene expression and complements and extends classic cis eQTL analysis. ASE differences can be combined with coding variants to produce a key resource of functional variants for precision medicine and genome-to-phenome mapping.