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A multi-omic integrative scheme characterizes tissues of action at loci associated with type 2 diabetes

By Jason M Torres, Moustafa Abdalla, Anthony Payne, Juan Fernandez-Tajes, Matthias Thurner, Vibe Nylander, Anna L. Gloyn, Anubha Mahajan, Mark I McCarthy

Posted 25 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.25.169706

Resolving the molecular processes that mediate genetic risk remains a challenge as most disease-associated variants are non-coding and functional and bioinformatic characterization of these signals requires knowledge of the specific tissues and cell-types in which they operate. To address this challenge, we developed a framework for integrating tissue-specific gene expression and epigenomic maps (primarily from tissues involved in insulin secretion and action) to obtain tissue-of-action (TOA) scores for each association signal by systematically partitioning posterior probabilities from Bayesian fine-mapping. We applied this scheme to credible set variants for 380 association signals from a recent GWAS meta-analysis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Europeans. The resulting tissue profiles underscored a predominant role for pancreatic islets and, to a lesser extent, subcutaneous adipose and liver, that was largely attributable to enhancer elements and transcribed regions, particularly among signals with greater fine-mapping resolution. We incorporated resulting TOA scores into a rule-based classifier, and validated the tissue assignments through comparison with data from cis-eQTL enrichment, functional fine-mapping, RNA co-expression, and patterns of physiological association. In addition to implicating signals with a single tissue-of-action, we also found evidence for signals with shared effects in multiple tissues as well as distinct tissue profiles between independent signals within heterogeneous loci. Lastly, we demonstrated that TOA scores can be directly coupled with eQTL colocalization to further resolve effector transcripts at T2D signals. This framework guides mechanistic inference by directing functional validation studies to the most relevant tissues and can gain power as fine-mapping resolution and cell-specific annotations become richer. This method is generalizable to all complex traits with relevant annotation data and is made available as an R package. ### Competing Interest Statement MMcC has served on advisory panels for Pfizer, NovoNordisk, Zoe Global; has received honoraria from Merck, Pfizer, NovoNordisk and Eli Lilly; has stock options in Zoe Global and has received research funding from Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Merck, NovoNordisk, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi Aventis, Servier & Takeda. As of June 2019, MMcC is an employee of Genentech, and holds stock in Roche. AM is now an employee of Genentech, and holds stock in Roche.

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