Statistics requantitates the central dogma

Jingyi Jessica Li, Department of Statistics and Department of Human Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Mark D. Biggin, Genomics Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA


Mammalian proteins are expressed at ∼103 to 108 molecules per cell (1). Differences between cell types, between normal and disease states, and between individuals are largely defined by changes in the abundance of proteins, which are in turn determined by rates of transcription, messenger RNA (mRNA) degradation, translation, and protein degradation. If the rates for one of these steps differ much more than the rates of the other three, that step would be dominant in defining the variation in protein expression. Over the past decade, system-wide studies have claimed that in animals, differences in translation rates predominate (25). On page 1112 of this issue, Jovanovic et al. (6), as well as recent studies by Battle et al. (7) and Li et al. (1), challenge this conclusion, suggesting that transcriptional control makes the larger contribution.

(full article) 

Impact of regulatory variation from RNA to protein

Alexis Battle1,2
Zia Khan3
Sidney H. Wang3
Amy Mitrano3
Michael J. Ford4
Jonathan K. Pritchard1,2,5
Yoav Gilad3

1Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
2Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
3Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
4MS Bioworks, LLC, 3950 Varsity Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA.
5Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


The phenotypic consequences of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) are presumably due to their effects on protein expression levels. Yet the impact of genetic variation, including eQTLs, on protein levels remains poorly understood. To address this, we mapped genetic variants that are associated with eQTLs, ribosome occupancy (rQTLs), or protein abundance (pQTLs). We found that most QTLs are associated with transcript expression levels, with consequent effects on ribosome and protein levels. However, eQTLs tend to have significantly reduced effect sizes on protein levels, which suggests that their potential impact on downstream phenotypes is often attenuated or buffered. Additionally, we identified a class of cis QTLs that affect protein abundance with little or no effect on messenger RNA or ribosome levels, which suggests that they may arise from differences in posttranslational regulation.

(full article)

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