New Methods to Uncover Global Transcriptional Programs for Disease Risk Variants

  • Suh, Yousin (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): More than 1,000 published GWAS have collectively reported significant associations of ~4,000 SNPs for more than 200 traits/diseases. The challenge is to move SNP associations to biological insights and then to translate these insights, achieving better clinical outcomes. This ambitious goal requires an inclusive and effective strategy to solve the molecular basis by which these variants confer disease susceptibility. To date, the vast majority of the associations noted in GWAS for disease phenotypes have been with variants located within gene deserts, the 99% of the genome that does not encode known proteins and where our understanding of functional consequences and causality is at best rudimentary. Recent findings indicate that altering DNA sequence in evolutionarily conserved non-coding regions can be as deleterious as altering coding regions. Therefore, it is not surprising that disease-causing variants will reside in the gene desert regions. The greatest challenge in the post-GWAS era is to understand the regulatory principles of risk variants in gene desert regions and the mechanisms underlying the risk conferred by these loci. The goal of this proposal is to accelerate post-GWAS functional characterization, uncovering initial global principles for the functional characterization of disease risk loci by focusing on altered function in transcription based on the actions of enhancer RNAs. Employing the 9p21 region as a model, we will establish how disease-associated common sequence variants alter the functions of regulatory regions and address the molecular mechanisms by which these effects are exerted. These studies will integrate disease susceptibility-associated sequence variations into the emerging three-dimensional network of long-distance genomic region interactions, establish local and global alterations in gene transcription, and explore the key role of enhancer-RNAs harboring sequence variations at GWAS loci. The primary significance will be the discovery of a novel functional consequences and an epigenomic molecular mechanism underlying GWAS loci in disease, with the opportunity for exploiting these new mechanistic and therapeutic insights for preventative approaches to the chronic diseases associated with aging.
Effective start/end date4/5/131/31/19


  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)