Leveraging cell-type-specific regulatory networks to interpret genetic variants in abdominal aortic aneurysm

Shining Ma, Xi Chen, Xiang Zhu, Philip S. Tsao, Wing Hung Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a common degenerative cardiovascular disease whose pathobiology is not clearly understood. The cellular heterogeneity and cell-type-specific gene regulation of vascular cells in human AAA have not been well-characterized. Here, we performed analysis of whole-genome sequencing data in AAA patients versus controls with the aim of detecting disease-associated variants that may affect gene regulation in human aortic smooth muscle cells (AoSMC) and human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC), two cell types of high relevance to AAA disease. To support this analysis, we generated H3K27ac HiChIP data for these cell types and inferred cell-type-specific gene regulatory networks. We observed that AAA-associated variants were most enriched in regulatory regions in AoSMC, compared with HAEC and CD4+ cells. The cell-type-specific regulation defined by this HiChIP data supported the importance of ERG and the KLF family of transcription factors in AAA disease. The analysis of regulatory elements that contain noncoding variants and also are differentially open between AAA patients and controls revealed the significance of the interleukin-6-mediated signaling pathway. This finding was further validated by including information from the deleteriousness effect of nonsynonymous single-nucleotide variants in AAA patients and additional control data from the Medical Genome Reference Bank dataset. These results shed important insights into AAA pathogenesis and provide a model for cell-type-specific analysis of disease-associated variants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2115601119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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