Epigenetic profiling of growth plate chondrocytes sheds insight into regulatory genetic variation influencing height

Elife. 2017 Dec 5;6:e29329. doi: 10.7554/eLife.29329.


GWAS have identified hundreds of height-associated loci. However, determining causal mechanisms is challenging, especially since height-relevant tissues (e.g. growth plates) are difficult to study. To uncover mechanisms by which height GWAS variants function, we performed epigenetic profiling of murine femoral growth plates. The profiled open chromatin regions recapitulate known chondrocyte and skeletal biology, are enriched at height GWAS loci, particularly near differentially expressed growth plate genes, and enriched for binding motifs of transcription factors with roles in chondrocyte biology. At specific loci, our analyses identified compelling mechanisms for GWAS variants. For example, at CHSY1, we identified a candidate causal variant (rs9920291) overlapping an open chromatin region. Reporter assays demonstrated that rs9920291 shows allelic regulatory activity, and CRISPR/Cas9 targeting of human chondrocytes demonstrates that the region regulates CHSY1 expression. Thus, integrating biologically relevant epigenetic information (here, from growth plates) with genetic association results can identify biological mechanisms important for human growth.

Keywords: ATAC-seq; Chondrocyte; Epigenetics; Height; Human; Mouse; evolutionary biology; genomics; human; human biology; medicine; mouse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Height*
  • Chondrocytes / physiology*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Growth Plate / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Mice


  • Chromatin