Background: There is widespread interest in the three-dimensional chromatin conformation of the genome and its impact on gene expression. However, these studies frequently do not consider parent-of-origin differences, such as genomic imprinting, which result in monoallelic expression. In addition, genome-wide allele-specific chromatin conformation associations have not been extensively explored. There are few accessible bioinformatic workflows for investigating allelic conformation differences and these require pre-phased haplotypes which are not widely available.
Results: We developed a bioinformatic pipeline, "HiCFlow," that performs haplotype assembly and visualization of parental chromatin architecture. We benchmarked the pipeline using prototype haplotype phased Hi-C data from GM12878 cells at three disease-associated imprinted gene clusters. Using Region Capture Hi-C and Hi-C data from human cell lines (1-7HB2, IMR-90, and H1-hESCs), we can robustly identify the known stable allele-specific interactions at the IGF2-H19 locus. Other imprinted loci (DLK1 and SNRPN) are more variable and there is no "canonical imprinted 3D structure," but we could detect allele-specific differences in A/B compartmentalization. Genome-wide, when topologically associating domains (TADs) are unbiasedly ranked according to their allele-specific contact frequencies, a set of allele-specific TADs could be defined. These occur in genomic regions of high sequence variation. In addition to imprinted genes, allele-specific TADs are also enriched for allele-specific expressed genes. We find loci that have not previously been identified as allele-specific expressed genes such as the bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs).
Conclusions: This study highlights the widespread differences in chromatin conformation between heterozygous loci and provides a new framework for understanding allele-specific expressed genes.
© 2023. The Author(s).