Objective To elucidate the genetic architecture of gene expression in pancreatic tissues. Design We performed expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis in histologically normal pancreatic tissue samples (n=95) using RNA sequencing and the corresponding 1000 genomes imputed germline genotypes. Data from pancreatic tumour-derived tissue samples (n=115) from The Cancer Genome Atlas were included for comparison. Results We identified 38 615 cis-eQTLs (in 484 genes) in histologically normal tissues and 39 713 cis-eQTL (in 237 genes) in tumour-derived tissues (false discovery rate <0.1), with the strongest effects seen near transcriptional start sites. Approximately 23% and 42% of genes with significant cis-eQTLs appeared to be specific for tumour-derived and normal-derived tissues, respectively. Significant enrichment of cis-eQTL variants was noted in non-coding regulatory regions, in particular for pancreatic tissues (1.53-fold to 3.12-fold, p≤0.0001), indicating tissue-specific functional relevance. A common pancreatic cancer risk locus on 9q34.2 (rs687289) was associated with ABO expression in histologically normal (p=5.8×10 â '8) and tumour-derived (p=8.3×10-5) tissues. The high linkage disequilibrium between this variant and the O blood group generating deletion variant in ABO (exon 6) suggested that nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) of the O' mRNA might explain this finding. However, knockdown of crucial NMD regulators did not influence decay of the ABO O' mRNA, indicating that a gene regulatory element influenced by pancreatic cancer risk alleles may underlie the eQTL. Conclusions We have identified cis-eQTLs representing potential functional regulatory variants in the pancreas and generated a rich data set for further studies on gene expression and its regulation in pancreatic tissues.
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