Genetic correlations reveal the shared genetic architecture of transcription in human peripheral blood

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Abstract

Transcript co-expression is regulated by a combination of shared genetic and environmental factors. Here, we estimate the proportion of co-expression that is due to shared genetic variance. To do so, we estimated the genetic correlations between each pairwise combination of 2469 transcripts that are highly heritable and expressed in whole blood in 1748 unrelated individuals of European ancestry. We identify 556 pairs with a significant genetic correlation of which 77% are located on different chromosomes, and report 934 expression quantitative trait loci, identified in an independent cohort, with significant effects on both transcripts in a genetically correlated pair. We show significant enrichment for transcription factor control and physical proximity through chromatin interactions as possible mechanisms of shared genetic control. Finally, we construct networks of interconnected transcripts and identify their underlying biological functions. Using genetic correlations to investigate transcriptional co-regulation provides valuable insight into the nature of the underlying genetic architecture of gene regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number483
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2017

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