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SLE non-coding Genetic Risk Variant Determines the Epigenetic Dysfunction of an Immune Cell Specific Enhancer that Controls Disease-critical microRNA Expression

By Guojun Hou, Isaac T.W. Harley, Xiaoming Lu, Tian Zhou, Ning Xu, Chao Yao, Yuting Qin, Ye Ouyang, Jianyang Ma, Xinyi Zhu, Xiang Yu, Hong Xu, Dai Dai, Huihua Ding, Yuanjia Tang, Bahram Namjou, Matthew T Weirauch, Leah C. Kottyan, John B. Harley, Nan Shen

Posted 15 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.13.092932

The human genome contains millions of putative regulatory elements, which regulate gene expression. We are just beginning to understand the functional consequences of genetic variation within these regulatory elements. Since the bulk of common genetic variation impacting polygenic disease phenotypes localizes to these non-coding regions of the genome, understanding the consequences will improve our understanding of the mechanisms mediating genetic risk in human disease. Here, we define the systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) risk variant rs2431369 as likely causal for SLE and show that it is located in a functional regulatory element that modulates miR-146a expression. We use epigenomic analysis and genome-editing to show that the rs2431697-containing region is a distal enhancer that specifically regulates miR-146a expression in a cell-type dependent manner. 3D chromatin structure analysis demonstrates physical interaction between the rs2431697-containing region and the miR-146a promoter. Further, our data show that NF-kB binds the disease protective allele in a sequence-specific manner, leading to increased expression of this immunoregulatory microRNA. Our work provides a strategy for using disease-associated variants to define the functional regulatory elements of non-coding RNA molecules such as miR-146a and provides mechanistic links between autoimmune disease risk genetic variation and disease etiology. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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