Human and rat skeletal muscle single-nuclei multi-omic integrative analyses nominate causal cell types, regulatory elements, and SNPs for complex traits

Genome Res. 2021 Dec;31(12):2258-2275. doi: 10.1101/gr.268482.120. Epub 2021 Nov 23.


Skeletal muscle accounts for the largest proportion of human body mass, on average, and is a key tissue in complex diseases and mobility. It is composed of several different cell and muscle fiber types. Here, we optimize single-nucleus ATAC-seq (snATAC-seq) to map skeletal muscle cell-specific chromatin accessibility landscapes in frozen human and rat samples, and single-nucleus RNA-seq (snRNA-seq) to map cell-specific transcriptomes in human. We additionally perform multi-omics profiling (gene expression and chromatin accessibility) on human and rat muscle samples. We capture type I and type II muscle fiber signatures, which are generally missed by existing single-cell RNA-seq methods. We perform cross-modality and cross-species integrative analyses on 33,862 nuclei and identify seven cell types ranging in abundance from 59.6% to 1.0% of all nuclei. We introduce a regression-based approach to infer cell types by comparing transcription start site-distal ATAC-seq peaks to reference enhancer maps and show consistency with RNA-based marker gene cell type assignments. We find heterogeneity in enrichment of genetic variants linked to complex phenotypes from the UK Biobank and diabetes genome-wide association studies in cell-specific ATAC-seq peaks, with the most striking enrichment patterns in muscle mesenchymal stem cells (∼3.5% of nuclei). Finally, we overlay these chromatin accessibility maps on GWAS data to nominate causal cell types, SNPs, transcription factor motifs, and target genes for type 2 diabetes signals. These chromatin accessibility profiles for human and rat skeletal muscle cell types are a useful resource for nominating causal GWAS SNPs and cell types.