Apr 28, 2020

Cis-regulatory similarities in the zebrafish and human pancreas uncover potential disease-related enhancers

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
R. Bordeira-CarricoJose Bessa


The pancreas is a central organ for human diseases that have a dramatic societal burden, such as pancreatic cancer and diabetes1,2. Non-coding cis-regulatory elements (CREs) of DNA control gene expression3,4, being required for proper pancreas function. Most disease-associated alleles5,6 are non- coding, often overlapping with CREs5, suggesting that alterations in these regulatory sequences contribute to human pancreatic diseases by impairing gene expression. However, functional testing of CREs in vivo is not fully explored. Here we analysed histone modifications, transcription, chromatin accessibility and interactions, to identify zebrafish pancreas CREs and their human functional equivalents, uncovering disease-associated sequences across species. We found a human pancreatic enhancer whose deletion impairs the tumour suppressor gene ARID1A expression, conferring a potential tumour suppressor role to this non-coding sequence. Additionally, we identified a zebrafish ptf1a distal enhancer which deletion generates pancreatic agenesis, demonstrating the causality of this condition in humans7 and the interspecies functional equivalency of enhancers.

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