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Characteristics of allelic gene expression in human brain cells from single-cell RNA-seq data analysis

Zhao, D., Lin, M., Pedrosa, E. et al.

Background
Monoallelic expression of autosomal genes has been implicated in human psychiatric disorders. However, there is a paucity of allelic expression studies in human brain cells at the single cell and genome wide levels.

Results
In this report, we reanalyzed a previously published single-cell RNA-seq dataset from several postmortem human brains and observed pervasive monoallelic expression in individual cells, largely in a random manner. Examining single nucleotide variants with a predicted functional disruption, we found that the “damaged” alleles were overall expressed in fewer brain cells than their counterparts, and at a lower level in cells where their expression was detected. We also identified many brain cell type-specific monoallelically expressed genes. Interestingly, many of these cell type-specific monoallelically expressed genes were enriched for functions important for those brain cell types. In addition, function analysis showed that genes displaying monoallelic expression and correlated expression across neuronal cells from different individual brains were implicated in the regulation of synaptic function.

Conclusions
Our findings suggest that monoallelic gene expression is prevalent in human brain cells, which may play a role in generating cellular identity and neuronal diversity and thus increasing the complexity and diversity of brain cell functions.

Citation

Zhao, D., Lin, M., Pedrosa, E. et al. "Characteristics of allelic gene expression in human brain cells from single-cell RNA-seq data analysis" BMC Genomics (2017): 860