Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an organ-specific autoimmune disease, whereby immune cell-mediated and inflammatory cytokines lead to loss of the insulin-producing ? cells in the pancreas. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified ~60 genomic regions associated with T1D risk. The vast majority of GWAS risk variants associated with T1D reside in non-coding regions, particularly enhancers, suggesting that gene regulatory changes substantially contribute to inter-individual differences in susceptibility to T1D. Driven by our T1D GWAS annotation data, highlighting the importance of a systematic analysis of both immune and ? cell systems of both T1D patients and controls, we propose to identify causal enhancer variants and causal target genes using contemporary computational methods and cutting-edge global genomics. We will perform our PRO-cap and PRO-seq assays to comprehensively identify active enhancers harboring T1D-associated variants in T cells, monocytes and stem cell derived ? cells (sc-? cells) from T1D patients and controls, followed by validation of active enhancers harboring T1D-associated variants using our eSTARR-seq assays (Aim 1). We will perform our Tri-HiC assays to profile the enhancer-promoter interactomes at unprecedented high resolution in primary T cells, primary monocytes and sc-? cells from T1D patients and controls as well as pancreatic islets to comprehensively identify target genes of T1D-associated variants, and refine targets of T1D-associated variants with T1D-sepcific alteration in target gene expression in each cell type using our coupled single cell nucleus (sn) RNA-seq and snATAC-seq assays (Aim 2). We will validate targets of T1D-associated variants in T cells, monocytes and ? cells using CRISPR/Cas9 endogenous enhancer mutational strategies in the context of the endogenous chromatin landscape in each cell type. Our analytical and experimental framework represents an exciting new paradigm for studying T1D, and the subsequent clinical research based on our results has the potential to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies against T1D. The data sets generated by these studies will represent important, but currently lacking, resources for the T1D research community.

Public Health Relevance

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by immune cell-mediated destruction of the pancreatic islet ? cells. In the past several years, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been successfully applied to T1D but the identification of causal variants and elucidation of affected target genes and the underlying mechanisms are the biggest challenge in the post-GWAS era. We aim to understand the principles of gene regulatory defects conferred by T1D risk variants at the genome-scale in order to provide a framework for translating genetic associations into mechanisms and, ultimately, clinical applications.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDK1)
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Akolkar, Beena
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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