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Dan Liang
Dan Liang
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Graduate Student
Jason Stein Lab

UNC Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Student Dan Liang is First Author of “Cell-type-specific effects of genetic variation on chromatin accessibility during human neuronal differentiation” in Nature Neuroscience, May 2021.

Dan is in the Jason Stein Lab.

Read publication here.


Common genetic risk for neuropsychiatric disorders is enriched in regulatory elements active during cortical neurogenesis. However, it remains poorly understood as to how these variants influence gene regulation. To model the functional impact of common genetic variation on the noncoding genome during human cortical development, we performed the assay for transposase accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) and analyzed chromatin accessibility quantitative trait loci (QTL) in cultured human neural progenitor cells and their differentiated neuronal progeny from 87 donors. We identified significant genetic effects on 988/1,839 neuron/progenitor regulatory elements, with highly cell-type and temporally specific effects. A subset (roughly 30%) of chromatin accessibility-QTL were also associated with changes in gene expression. Motif-disrupting alleles of transcriptional activators generally led to decreases in chromatin accessibility, whereas motif-disrupting alleles of repressors led to increases in chromatin accessibility. By integrating cell-type-specific chromatin accessibility-QTL and brain-relevant genome-wide association data, we were able to fine-map and identify regulatory mechanisms underlying noncoding neuropsychiatric disorder risk loci.

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