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Multilevel integrative transcriptome analyses in humans and humanized mice define in vivo human lncRNA metabolic regulators

By Xiangbo Ruan, Ping Li, Yonghe Ma, Cheng-fei Jiang, Yi Chen, Yu Shi, Nikhil Gupta, Fayaz Seifuddin, Mehdi Pirooznia, Hiroshi Suemizu, Yasuyuki Ohnishi, Nao Yoneda, Megumi Nishiwaki, Haiming Cao

Posted 02 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.01.884023

A growing number of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have emerged as vital metabolic regulators in research animals suggesting that lncRNAs could also play an important role in human metabolism. However, most human lncRNAs are non-conserved, vastly limiting our ability to identify human lncRNA metabolic regulators (hLMRs). As the sequence-function relation of lncRNAs has yet to be established, the identification of lncRNA metabolic regulators in animals often relies on their regulations by experimental metabolic conditions. But it is very challenging to apply this strategy to human lncRNAs because well-controlled human data are much limited in scope and often confounded by genetic heterogeneity. In this study, we establish an efficient pipeline to identify putative hLMRs that are metabolically sensitive, disease-relevant, and population applicable. We first progressively processed human transcriptome data to select human liver lncRNAs that exhibit highly dynamic expression in the general population, show differential expression in a metabolic disease population, and response to dietary intervention in a small disease cohort. We then experimentally demonstrated the responsiveness of selected hepatic lncRNAs to defined metabolic milieus in a liver-specific humanized mouse model. Furthermore, by extracting a concise list of protein-coding genes that are persistently correlated with lncRNAs in general and metabolic disease populations, we predicted the specific function for each hLMR. Using gain- and loss-of-function approaches in humanized mice as well as ectopic expression in conventional mice, we were able to validate the regulatory role of one non-conserved hLMR in cholesterol metabolism. Mechanistically, this hLMR binds to an RNA-binding protein, PTBP1, to modulate the transcription of cholesterol synthesis genes. In summary, our study provides a pipeline to overcome the variabilities intrinsic to human data to enable the efficient identification and functional definition of hLMRs. The combination of this bioinformatic framework and humanized murine model will enable broader systematic investigation of the physiological role of disease-relevant human lncRNAs in metabolic homeostasis.

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