Modelling human regulatory variation in mouse: finding the function in genome-wide association studies and whole-genome sequencing

PLoS Genet. 2012;8(3):e1002544. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002544. Epub 2012 Mar 1.


An increasing body of literature from genome-wide association studies and human whole-genome sequencing highlights the identification of large numbers of candidate regulatory variants of potential therapeutic interest in numerous diseases. Our relatively poor understanding of the functions of non-coding genomic sequence, and the slow and laborious process of experimental validation of the functional significance of human regulatory variants, limits our ability to fully benefit from this information in our efforts to comprehend human disease. Humanized mouse models (HuMMs), in which human genes are introduced into the mouse, suggest an approach to this problem. In the past, HuMMs have been used successfully to study human disease variants; e.g., the complex genetic condition arising from Down syndrome, common monogenic disorders such as Huntington disease and β-thalassemia, and cancer susceptibility genes such as BRCA1. In this commentary, we highlight a novel method for high-throughput single-copy site-specific generation of HuMMs entitled High-throughput Human Genes on the X Chromosome (HuGX). This method can be applied to most human genes for which a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) construct can be derived and a mouse-null allele exists. This strategy comprises (1) the use of recombineering technology to create a human variant-harbouring BAC, (2) knock-in of this BAC into the mouse genome using Hprt docking technology, and (3) allele comparison by interspecies complementation. We demonstrate the throughput of the HuGX method by generating a series of seven different alleles for the human NR2E1 gene at Hprt. In future challenges, we consider the current limitations of experimental approaches and call for a concerted effort by the genetics community, for both human and mouse, to solve the challenge of the functional analysis of human regulatory variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Artificial, Bacterial
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid*
  • X Chromosome / genetics


  • NR2E1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Hypoxanthine Phosphoribosyltransferase