RNA sequencing enables allele-specific expression (ASE) studies that complement standard genotype expression studies for common variants and, importantly, also allow measuring the regulatory impact of rare variants. The Genotype-Tissue Expression project (GTEx) is collecting RNA-seq data on multiple tissues of a same set of individuals and novel methods are required for the analysis of these data.
A team led by researchers at the University of Helsinki have developed a statistical method to compare different patterns of ASE across tissues and to classify genetic variants according to their impact on the tissue-wide expression profile. They focus on strong ASE effects that they are expecting to see for protein-truncating variants, but this method can also be adjusted for other types of ASE effects. The researchers illustrate the method with a real data example on a tissue-wide expression profile of a variant causal for lipoid proteinosis, and with a simulation study to assess our method more generally.