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Putative bovine topological association domains and CTCF binding motifs can reduce the search space for causative regulatory variants of complex traits

By Min Wang, Timothy P Hancock, Amanda J Chamberlain, Christy J Vander Jagt, Jennie E Pryce, Benjamin G Cocks, Mike E Goddard, Benjamin J Hayes

Posted 04 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/242792 (published DOI: 10.1186/s12864-018-4800-0)

Topological association domains (TADs) are chromosomal domains characterised by frequent internal DNA-DNA interactions. The transcription factor CTCF binds to conserved DNA sequence patterns called CTCF binding motifs to either prohibit or facilitate chromosomal interactions. TADs and CTCF binding motifs control gene expression, but they are not yet well defined in the bovine genome. In this paper, we sought to improve the annotation of bovine TADs and CTCF binding motifs, and assess whether the new annotation can reduce the search space for cis-regulatory variants. We used genomic synteny to map TADs and CTCF binding motifs from humans, mice, dogs and macaques to the bovine genome. We found that our mapped TADs exhibited the same hallmark properties of those sourced from experimental data, such as housekeeping gene, tRNA genes, CTCF binding motifs, SINEs, H3K4me3 and H3K27ac. Then we showed that runs of genes with the same pattern of allele-specific expression (ASE) (either favouring paternal or maternal allele) were often located in the same TAD or between the same conserved CTCF binding motifs. Analyses of variance showed that when averaged across all bovine tissues tested, TADs explained 14% of ASE variation (standard deviation, SD: 0.056), while CTCF explained 27% (SD: 0.078). Furthermore, we showed that the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with gene expression variation (eQTLs) or ASE variation (aseQTLs), which were identified from mRNA transcripts from 141 lactating cows white blood and milk cells, were highly enriched at putative bovine CTCF binding motifs. The most significant aseQTL and eQTL for each genic target were located within the same TAD as the gene more often than expected (Chi-Squared test P-value < 0.001). We conclude that genomic synteny can be used to functionally annotate conserved transcriptional components, and provides a tool to reduce the search space for causative regulatory variants in the bovine genome.

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