Integrative analysis of mRNA expression and half-life data reveals trans-acting genetic variants associated with increased expression of stable transcripts

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLoS One

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

Genetic variation in gene expression makes an important contribution to phenotypic variation and susceptibility to disease. Recently, a subset of cis -acting expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) has been found to result from polymorphisms that affect RNA stability. Here we carried out a search for trans -acting variants that influence RNA stability. We first demonstrate that differences in the activity of trans -acting factors that stabilize RNA can be detected by comparing the expression levels of long-lived (stable) and short-lived (unstable) transcripts in high-throughput gene expression experiments. Using gene expression microarray data generated from eight HapMap3 populations, we calculated the relative expression ranks of long-lived transcripts versus short-lived transcripts in each sample. Treating this as a quantitative trait, we applied genome-wide association and identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs6137010, on chromosome 20p13 with which it is strongly associated in two Asian populations ( p =  4×10 −10 in CHB - Han Chinese from Beijing; p  = 1×10 −4 in JPT - Japanese from Tokyo). This SNP is a cis -eQTL for SNRPB in CHB and JPT but not in the other six HapMap3 populations. SNRPB is a core component of the spliceosome, and has previously been shown to affect the expression of many RNA processing factors. We propose that a cis -eQTL of SNRPB may be directly responsible for inter-individual variation in relative expression of long-lived versus short-lived transcript in Asian populations. In support of this hypothesis, knockdown of SNRPB results in a significant reduction in the relative expression of long-lived versus short-lived transcripts. Samples with higher relative expression of long-lived transcripts also had higher relative expression of coding compared to non-coding RNA and of RNA from housekeeping compared to non-housekeeping genes, due to the lower decay rates of coding RNAs, particularly those that perform housekeeping functions, compared to non-coding RNAs.