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Massively parallel reporter assays combined with cell-type specific eQTL informed multiple melanoma loci and identified a pleiotropic function of HIV-1 restriction gene, MX2, in melanoma promotion

By Jiyeon Choi, Tongwu Zhang, Andrew Vu, Julien Ablain, Matthew M Makowski, Leandro M Colli, Mai Xu, Harriet Rothschild, Cathrin Gräwe, Michael A Kovacs, Myriam Brossard, John Taylor, Bogdan Pasaniuc, Raj Chari, Stephen J. Chanock, Clive J Hoggart, Florence Demenais, Jennifer H. Barrett, Matthew H Law, Mark M Iles, Kai Yu, Michiel Vermeulen, Leonard I Zon, Kevin M. Brown

Posted 02 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/625400

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified ~20 melanoma susceptibility loci. To identify susceptibility genes and variants simultaneously from multiple GWAS loci, we integrated massively-parallel reporter assays (MPRA) with cell type-specific epigenomic data as well as melanocyte-specific expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) profiling. Starting from 16 melanoma loci, we selected 832 variants overlapping active regions of chromatin in cells of melanocytic lineage and identified 39 candidate functional variants displaying allelic transcriptional activity by MPRA. For four of these loci, we further identified four colocalizing melanocyte cis -eQTL genes ( CTSS , CASP8 , MX2 , and MAFF ) matching the allelic activity of MPRA functional variants. Among these, we further characterized the locus encompassing the HIV-1 restriction gene, MX2 , on chromosome band Chr21q22.3 and validated a functional variant, rs398206, among multiple high LD variants. rs398206 mediates allelic transcriptional activity via binding of the transcription factor, YY1. This allelic transcriptional regulation is consistent with a significant cis -eQTL of MX2 in primary human melanocytes, where the melanoma risk-associated A allele of rs398206 is correlated with higher MX2 levels. Melanocyte-specific transgenic expression of human MX2 in a zebrafish model demonstrated accelerated melanoma formation in a BRAF V600E background. Thus, using an efficient scalable approach to streamline GWAS follow-up functional studies, we identified multiple candidate melanoma susceptibility genes and variants, and uncovered a pleiotropic function of MX2 in melanoma susceptibility.

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