Background: Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) play an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Gene expression levels and eQTLs are expected to vary from tissue to tissue, and therefore multi-tissue analyses are necessary to fully understand complex genetic conditions in humans. Dura mater tissue likely interacts with cranial bone growth and thus may play a role in the etiology of Chiari Type I Malformation (CMI) and related conditions, but it is often inaccessible and its gene expression has not been well studied. A genetic basis to CMI has been established; however, the specific genetic risk factors are not well characterized.
Results: We present an assessment of eQTLs for whole blood and dura mater tissue from individuals with CMI. A joint-tissue analysis identified 239 eQTLs in either dura or blood, with 79% of these eQTLs shared by both tissues. Several identified eQTLs were novel and these implicate genes involved in bone development (IPO8, XYLT1, and PRKAR1A), and ribosomal pathways related to marrow and bone dysfunction, as potential candidates in the development of CMI.
Conclusions: Despite strong overall heterogeneity in expression levels between blood and dura, the majority of cis-eQTLs are shared by both tissues. The power to detect shared eQTLs was improved by using an integrative statistical approach. The identified tissue-specific and shared eQTLs provide new insight into the genetic basis for CMI and related conditions.