Enhancers are the primary DNA regulatory elements that confer cell type specificity of gene expression. Recent studies characterizing individual enhancers have revealed their potential to direct heterologous gene expression in a highly cell-type-specific manner. However, it has not yet been possible to systematically identify and test the function of enhancers for each of the many cell types in an organism. We have developed PESCA, a scalable and generalizable method that leverages ATAC- and single-cell RNA-sequencing protocols, to characterize cell-type-specific enhancers that should enable genetic access and perturbation of gene function across mammalian cell types. Focusing on the highly heterogeneous mammalian cerebral cortex, we apply PESCA to find enhancers and generate viral reagents capable of accessing and manipulating a subset of somatostatin-expressing cortical interneurons with high specificity. This study demonstrates the utility of this platform for developing new cell-type-specific viral reagents, with significant implications for both basic and translational research.
Sequencing data had been deposited in GEO under accession code GSE136802
A scalable platform for the development of cell-type-specific viral driversNCBI Gene Expression Omnibus, GSE136802.
- Michael E Greenberg
- Sinisa Hrvatin
- M Aurel Nagy
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#IS00000074-3) of Harvard Medical School. All surgery was performed under isoflurane anesthesia, and every effort was made to minimize suffering.
- Anne E West, Duke University School of Medicine, United States
© 2019, Hrvatin et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Maintaining germline genome integrity is essential and enormously complex. Although many proteins are involved in DNA replication, proofreading, and repair, mutator alleles have largely eluded detection in mammals. DNA replication and repair proteins often recognize sequence motifs or excise lesions at specific nucleotides. Thus, we might expect that the spectrum of de novo mutations – the frequencies of C>T, A>G, etc. – will differ between genomes that harbor either a mutator or wild-type allele. Previously, we used quantitative trait locus mapping to discover candidate mutator alleles in the DNA repair gene Mutyh that increased the C>A germline mutation rate in a family of inbred mice known as the BXDs (Sasani et al., 2022, Ashbrook et al., 2021). In this study we developed a new method to detect alleles associated with mutation spectrum variation and applied it to mutation data from the BXDs. We discovered an additional C>A mutator locus on chromosome 6 that overlaps Ogg1, a DNA glycosylase involved in the same base-excision repair network as Mutyh (David et al., 2007). Its effect depends on the presence of a mutator allele near Mutyh, and BXDs with mutator alleles at both loci have greater numbers of C>A mutations than those with mutator alleles at either locus alone. Our new methods for analyzing mutation spectra reveal evidence of epistasis between germline mutator alleles and may be applicable to mutation data from humans and other model organisms.
Although gene expression divergence has long been postulated to be the primary driver of human evolution, identifying the genes and genetic variants underlying uniquely human traits has proven to be quite challenging. Theory suggests that cell-type-specific cis-regulatory variants may fuel evolutionary adaptation due to the specificity of their effects. These variants can precisely tune the expression of a single gene in a single cell-type, avoiding the potentially deleterious consequences of trans-acting changes and non-cell type-specific changes that can impact many genes and cell types, respectively. It has recently become possible to quantify human-specific cis-acting regulatory divergence by measuring allele-specific expression in human-chimpanzee hybrid cells—the product of fusing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells of each species in vitro. However, these cis-regulatory changes have only been explored in a limited number of cell types. Here, we quantify human-chimpanzee cis-regulatory divergence in gene expression and chromatin accessibility across six cell types, enabling the identification of highly cell-type-specific cis-regulatory changes. We find that cell-type-specific genes and regulatory elements evolve faster than those shared across cell types, suggesting an important role for genes with cell-type-specific expression in human evolution. Furthermore, we identify several instances of lineage-specific natural selection that may have played key roles in specific cell types, such as coordinated changes in the cis-regulation of dozens of genes involved in neuronal firing in motor neurons. Finally, using novel metrics and a machine learning model, we identify genetic variants that likely alter chromatin accessibility and transcription factor binding, leading to neuron-specific changes in the expression of the neurodevelopmentally important genes FABP7 and GAD1. Overall, our results demonstrate that integrative analysis of cis-regulatory divergence in chromatin accessibility and gene expression across cell types is a promising approach to identify the specific genes and genetic variants that make us human.