Pancreatic islet enhancer clusters enriched in type 2 diabetes risk associated variants
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Pancreatic islet enhancer clusters enriched in type 2 diabetes risk-associated variants. Introduction. Type 2 diabetes affects over 300 million people, causing severe complications and premature death, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely unknown

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Introduction diabetes risk-associated variants

  • Type 2 diabetes affects over 300 million people, causing severe complications and premature death, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely unknown

  • Despite recent progress in mapping transcriptional regulatory elements and chromatin states, there is still limited understanding of how transcription factor networks interact with chromatin to control genome function

  • Furthermore, little is known about how the dysregulation of such networks contributes to disease

Introduction diabetes risk-associated variants

  • As pancreatic islet cells are pivotal in diabetes pathogenesis and genomic cis-regulatory maps in islets are still markedly underdeveloped compared to those for other cell types the researchers have now mapped chromatin states, binding sites of key transcription factors and transcripts in human pancreatic islets

  • Integrative analysis and genetic perturbations were combined to provide reference charts of the cis-regulatory elements functioning in human pancreatic islets

Results diabetes risk-associated variants

  • To characterize the transcription factor networks that control gene activity in human islet cells, the researchers focused on five key β cell transcription factors FOXA2, MAFB, NKX2.2, NKX6.1 & PDX1

  • All five transcription factors invariably bound to multiple sites in the vicinity of their own and each other’s genes, a pattern indicating auto- and cross-regulatory interactions

  • Also, all five transcription factors frequently bound to overlapping genomic sites, and, consequently, their genomic binding signals were highly correlated

Results diabetes risk-associated variants

  • The researchers next sought to understand the relationship between the binding sites of islet-specific transcription factors and underlying chromatin states in human islets

  • It was found that transcription factors would bind to accessible DNA, 92% of the genomic sites bound by any of the five islet-specific transcription factors mapped to sites that showed enrichment in FAIRE-seq or H2A.Z ChIP-seq in at least one sample, and islet transcription factors bound to all major classes of accessible chromatin

Discussion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • The study provides reference cis-regulatory maps for ongoing efforts to dissect the transcriptional program of pancreatic β cells and the molecular mechanisms of human T2D

  • The study showed that islet-specific transcription factors establish widespread binding to accessible chromatin sites where they are apparently not engaged in regulation in cis of cell type–specific gene transcription

Discussion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • They further demonstrate that binding events that do drive the transcription of genes underlying islet cell identity reside in clusters of transcriptional enhancers

  • These clusters mirror previously reported clusters of accessible chromatin in human islets5, and, although they constitute groups of discrete enhancers, they share many features and may thus represent the same phenomenon as recently reported for large enhancers (superenhancers)

Discussion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • 4C-seq analysis allowed them to speculate that enhancer multiplicity serves an architectural role by creating active chromatin structures in genomic domains that are transcriptionally silent in most non-islet cell types

  • These findings have therefore uncovered central cis-regulatory determinants of islet cell gene transcription

Conclusion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • This systematic analysis implicates sequence variation at islet enhancer clusters in susceptibility to T2D and in variation in fasting glycemia levels

  • Recently, SNPs associated with common polygenic diseases were shown to be enriched in noncoding genomic elements defined by DNase I hypersensitivity, which marks accessible chromatin regions such as active promoters, insulators, repressors, and poised and active enhancers48, or by H3K4me3, which is enriched at promoters and, more weakly, at enhancers

Conclusion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • The study defined for the first time, functionally distinct transcription factor–bound genomic sites in human islets and have thereby disclosed that T2D susceptibility is specifically associated with allelic variation in pancreatic islet distant enhancers

  • The results therefore link islet cis-regulatory networks to mechanisms underlying T2D susceptibility and variation in glycemic traits

Conclusion diabetes risk-associated variants

  • The availability of integrated cis-regulatory maps in pancreatic islets will facilitate hypothesis-driven experiments to establish the exact manner in which common and lower frequency genetic variants affect islet cells in human diabetes