Biomechanical cues dynamically control major cellular processes, but whether genetic variants actively participate in mechanosensing mechanisms remains unexplored. Vascular homeostasis is tightly regulated by hemodynamics. Exposure to disturbed blood flow at arterial sites of branching and bifurcation causes constitutive activation of vascular endothelium contributing to atherosclerosis, the major cause of coronary artery disease (CAD) and ischemic stroke (IS). Conversely, unidirectional flow promotes quiescent endothelium. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified chromosome 1p32.2 as strongly associated with CAD/IS; however, the causal mechanism related to this locus remains unknown. Using statistical analyses, assay of transposase accessible chromatin with whole-genome sequencing (ATAC-seq), H3K27ac/H3K4me2 ChIP with whole-genome sequencing (ChIP-seq), and CRISPR interference in human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs), our results demonstrate that rs17114036, a common noncoding polymorphism at 1p32.2, is located in an endothelial enhancer dynamically regulated by hemodynamics. CRISPR-Cas9-based genome editing shows that rs17114036-containing region promotes endothelial quiescence under unidirectional shear stress by regulating phospholipid phosphatase 3 (PLPP3). Chromatin accessibility quantitative trait locus (caQTL) mapping using HAECs from 56 donors, allelic imbalance assay from 7 donors, and luciferase assays demonstrate that CAD/IS-protective allele at rs17114036 in PLPP3 intron 5 confers increased endothelial enhancer activity. ChIP-PCR and luciferase assays show that CAD/IS-protective allele at rs17114036 creates a binding site for transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 2 (KLF2), which increases the enhancer activity under unidirectional flow. These results demonstrate that a human SNP contributes to critical endothelial mechanotransduction mechanisms and suggest that human haplotypes and related cis-regulatory elements provide a previously unappreciated layer of regulatory control in cellular mechanosensing mechanisms.
Keywords: GWAS; coronary artery disease; endothelial cells; mechanotransduction; shear stress.
Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.