Quantitative trait loci mapped for TCF21 binding, chromatin accessibility and chromosomal looping in coronary artery smooth muscle cells reveal molecular mechanisms of coronary disease loci
To investigate the epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms of coronary artery disease (CAD) risk, as well as the functional regulation of chromatin structure and function, we have created a catalog of genetic variants associated with three stages of transcriptional cis -regulation in primary human coronary artery vascular smooth muscle cells (HCASMC). Results: To this end, we have used a pooling approach with HCASMC lines to map regulatory variation that mediates binding of the CAD associated
... the CAD associated transcription factor TCF21 with ChIPseq studies (bQTLs), variation that regulates chromatin accessibility with ATACseq studies (caQTLs), and chromosomal looping with HiC methods (clQTLs). We show significant overlap of the QTLs, and their relationship to smooth muscle specific genes and the binding of smooth muscle transcription factors. Further, we use multiple analyses to show that these QTLs are highly associated with CAD GWAS loci and correlated to lead SNPs in these loci where they show allelic effects. We have verified with genome editing that identified functional variants can regulate both chromatin accessibility and chromosomal looping, providing new insights into functional mechanisms regulating chromatin state and chromosomal structure. Finally, we directly link the disease associated TGFβ1-SMAD3 pathway to the CAD associated FN1 gene through a response QTL that modulates both chromatin accessibility and chromosomal looping. Conclusions: Together, these studies represent the most thorough mapping of multiple QTL types in a highly disease relevant primary cultured cell type, and provide novel insights into their functional overlap and mechanisms that underlie these genomic features and their relationship to disease risk.