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Genome Res. 2006 Mar;16(3):331-9. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Analysis of allelic differential expression in human white blood cells.

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Perlegen Sciences, Mountain View, California 94043, USA.


Allelic variation of gene expression is common in humans, and is of interest because of its potential contribution to variation in heritable traits. To identify human genes with allelic expression differences, we genotype DNA and examine mRNA isolated from the white blood cells of 12 unrelated individuals using oligonucleotide arrays containing 8406 exonic SNPs. Of the exonic SNPs, 1983, located in 1389 genes, are both expressed in the white blood cells and heterozygous in at least one of the 12 individuals, and thus can be examined for differential allelic expression. Of the 1389 genes, 731 (53%) show allele expression differences in at least one individual. To gain insight into the regulatory mechanisms governing allelic expression differences, we analyze a set of 60 genes containing exonic SNPs that are heterozygous in three or more samples, and for which all heterozygotes display differential expression. We find three patterns of allelic expression, suggesting different underlying regulatory mechanisms. Exonic SNPs in three of the 60 genes are monoallelically expressed in the human white blood cells, and when examined in families show expression of only the maternal copy, consistent with regulation by imprinting. Approximately one-third of the genes have the same allele expressed more highly in all heterozygotes, suggesting that their regulation is predominantly influenced by cis-elements in strong linkage disequilibrium with the assayed exonic SNP. The remaining two-thirds of the genes have different alleles expressed more highly in different heterozygotes, suggesting that their expression differences are influenced by factors not in strong linkage disequilibrium with the assayed exonic SNP.

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