Index and biological spectrum of human DNase I hypersensitive sites

Nature. 2020 Aug;584(7820):244-251. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2559-3. Epub 2020 Jul 29.


DNase I hypersensitive sites (DHSs) are generic markers of regulatory DNA1-5 and contain genetic variations associated with diseases and phenotypic traits6-8. We created high-resolution maps of DHSs from 733 human biosamples encompassing 438 cell and tissue types and states, and integrated these to delineate and numerically index approximately 3.6 million DHSs within the human genome sequence, providing a common coordinate system for regulatory DNA. Here we show that these maps highly resolve the cis-regulatory compartment of the human genome, which encodes unexpectedly diverse cell- and tissue-selective regulatory programs at very high density. These programs can be captured comprehensively by a simple vocabulary that enables the assignment to each DHS of a regulatory barcode that encapsulates its tissue manifestations, and global annotation of protein-coding and non-coding RNA genes in a manner orthogonal to gene expression. Finally, we show that sharply resolved DHSs markedly enhance the genetic association and heritability signals of diseases and traits. Rather than being confined to a small number of distal elements or promoters, we find that genetic signals converge on congruently regulated sets of DHSs that decorate entire gene bodies. Together, our results create a universal, extensible coordinate system and vocabulary for human regulatory DNA marked by DHSs, and provide a new global perspective on the architecture of human gene regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes / genetics
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonuclease I