Pharmacogene regulatory elements: from discovery to applications

Genome Med. 2012 May 25;4(5):45. doi: 10.1186/gm344.


Regulatory elements play an important role in the variability of individual responses to drug treatment. This has been established through studies on three classes of elements that regulate RNA and protein abundance: promoters, enhancers and microRNAs. Each of these elements, and genetic variants within them, are being characterized at an exponential pace by next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. In this review, we outline examples of how each class of element affects drug response via regulation of drug targets, transporters and enzymes. We also discuss the impact of NGS technologies such as chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-Seq) and RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq), and the ramifications of new techniques such as high-throughput chromosome capture (Hi-C), chromatin interaction analysis by paired-end tag sequencing (ChIA-PET) and massively parallel reporter assays (MPRA). NGS approaches are generating data faster than they can be analyzed, and new methods will be required to prioritize laboratory results before they are ready for the clinic. However, there is no doubt that these approaches will bring about a systems-level understanding of the interplay between genetic variants and drug response. An understanding of the importance of regulatory variants in pharmacogenomics will facilitate the identification of responders versus non-responders, the prevention of adverse effects and the optimization of therapies for individual patients.