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Coordinated Effects of Sequence Variation on DNA Binding, Chromatin Structure, and Transcription

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Science  08 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6159, pp. 744-747
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242463

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DNA Differences

The extent to which genetic variation affects an individual's phenotype has been difficult to predict because the majority of variation lies outside the coding regions of genes. Now, three studies examine the extent to which genetic variation affects the chromatin of individuals with diverse ancestry and genetic variation (see the Perspective by Furey and Sethupathy). Kasowski et al. (p. 750, published online 17 October) examined how genetic variation affects differences in chromatin states and their correlation to histone modifications, as well as more general DNA binding factors. Kilpinen et al. (p. 744, published online 17 October) document how genetic variation is linked to allelic specificity in transcription factor binding, histone modifications, and transcription. McVicker et al. (p. 747, published online 17 October) identified how quantitative trait loci affect histone modifications in Yoruban individuals and established which specific transcription factors affect such modifications.

Abstract

DNA sequence variation has been associated with quantitative changes in molecular phenotypes such as gene expression, but its impact on chromatin states is poorly characterized. To understand the interplay between chromatin and genetic control of gene regulation, we quantified allelic variability in transcription factor binding, histone modifications, and gene expression within humans. We found abundant allelic specificity in chromatin and extensive local, short-range, and long-range allelic coordination among the studied molecular phenotypes. We observed genetic influence on most of these phenotypes, with histone modifications exhibiting strong context-dependent behavior. Our results implicate transcription factors as primary mediators of sequence-specific regulation of gene expression programs, with histone modifications frequently reflecting the primary regulatory event.

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