Most existing expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) mapping studies have been focused on individuals of European ancestry and are underrepresented in other populations including populations with African ancestry. Lack of large-scale well-powered eQTL mapping studies in populations with African ancestry can both impede the dissemination of eQTL mapping results that would otherwise benefit individuals with African ancestry and hinder the comparable analysis for understanding how gene regulation is shaped through evolution. We fill this critical knowledge gap by performing a large-scale in-depth eQTL mapping study on 1,032 African Americans (AA) and 801 European Americans (EA) in the GENOA cohort.
We identified a total of 354,931 eSNPs in AA and 371,309 eSNPs in EA, with 112,316 eSNPs overlapped between the two. We found that eQTL harboring genes (eGenes) are enriched in metabolic pathways and tend to have higher SNP heritability compared to non-eGenes. We found that eGenes that are common in the two populations tend to be less conserved than eGenes that are unique to one population, which are less conserved than non-eGenes. Through conditional analysis, we found that eGenes in AA tend to harbor more independent eQTLs than eGenes in EA, suggesting potentially diverse genetic architecture underlying expression variation in the two populations.
The large sample sizes in GENOA allow us to construct accurate expression prediction models in both AA and EA, facilitating powerful transcriptome-wide association studies. Overall, our results represent an important step toward revealing the genetic architecture underlying expression variation in African Americans.
Genetic Architecture of Gene Expression in European and African Americans: An eQTL Mapping Study in GENOA
Lulu Shang, Jennifer A. Smith, Wei Zhao, Minjung Kho, Stephen T. Turner, Thomas H. Mosley, Sharon LR Kardia†, and Xiang Zhou†. “Genetic architecture of gene expression in European and African Americans: an eQTL mapping study in GENOA.” The American Journal of Human Genetics 106, no. 4 (2020): 496-512.