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Single cell eQTL analysis identifies cell type-specific genetic control of gene expression in fibroblasts and reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells

By Drew Neavin, Quan Nguyen, Maciej S. Daniszewski, Helena H Liang, Han Sheng Chiu, Anne Senabouth, Samuel W. Lukowski, Duncan E Crombie, Grace E. Lidgerwood, Damián Hernández, James C. Vickers, Anthony L Cook, Nathan J. Palpant, Alice Pebay, Alex Hewitt, Joseph E. Powell

Posted 21 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.21.163766

The discovery that somatic cells can be reprogrammed to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - cells that can be differentiated into any cell type of the three germ layers - has provided a foundation for in vitro human disease modelling, drug development, and population genetics studies. In the majority of instances, the expression levels of genes, plays a critical role in contributing to disease risk, or the ability to identify therapeutic targets. However, while the effect of the genetic background of cell lines has been shown to strongly influence gene expression, the effect has not been evaluated at the level of individual cells. Differences in the effect of genetic variation on the gene expression of different cell-types, would provide significant resolution for in vitro research using preprogramed cells. By bringing together single cell RNA sequencing and population genetics, we now have a framework in which to evaluate the cell-types specific effects of genetic variation on gene expression. Here, we performed single cell RNA-sequencing on 64,018 fibroblasts from 79 donors and we mapped expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) at the level of individual cell types. We demonstrate that the large majority of eQTL detected in fibroblasts are specific to an individual sub-type of cells. To address if the allelic effects on gene expression are dynamic across cell re-programming, we generated scRNA-seq data in 19,967 iPSCs from 31 reprogramed donor lines. We again identify highly cell type specific eQTL in iPSCs, and show that that the eQTL in fibroblasts are almost entirely disappear during reprogramming. This work provides an atlas of how genetic variation influences gene expression across cell subtypes, and provided evidence for patterns of genetic architecture that lead to cell-types specific eQTL effects. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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