Whole-Genome and RNA Sequencing Reveal Variation and Transcriptomic Coordination in the Developing Human Prefrontal Cortex

Gene expression levels vary across developmental stage, cell type, and region in the brain. Genomic variants also contribute to the variation in expression, and some neuropsychiatric disorder loci may exert their effects through this mechanism. To investigate these relationships, we present BrainVar, a unique resource of paired whole-genome and bulk tissue RNA sequencing from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of 176 individuals across prenatal and postnatal development. Here we identify common variants that alter gene expression (expression quantitative trait loci [eQTLs]) constantly across development or predominantly during prenatal or postnatal stages. Both “constant” and “temporal-predominant” eQTLs are enriched for loci associated with neuropsychiatric traits and disorders and colocalize with specific variants. Expression levels of more than 12,000 genes rise or fall in a concerted late-fetal transition, with the transitional genes enriched for cell-type-specific genes and neuropsychiatric risk loci, underscoring the importance of cataloging developmental trajectories in understanding cortical physiology and pathology.

Keywords: BrainVar; DLPFC; LOC101926933 RP11-298I3.1 AL132780.1 ENSG00000257285; PsychENCODE; RHEBL1; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; fetal transition; mTOR; prenatal eQTL


Biology and Biomarkers

Donna M. Werling, Michael Breen, Joon An