Discovery of target genes and pathways at GWAS loci by pooled single-cell CRISPR screens

Science. 2023 May 19;380(6646):eadh7699. doi: 10.1126/science.adh7699. Epub 2023 May 19.


Most variants associated with complex traits and diseases identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) map to noncoding regions of the genome with unknown effects. Using ancestrally diverse, biobank-scale GWAS data, massively parallel CRISPR screens, and single-cell transcriptomic and proteomic sequencing, we discovered 124 cis-target genes of 91 noncoding blood trait GWAS loci. Using precise variant insertion through base editing, we connected specific variants with gene expression changes. We also identified trans-effect networks of noncoding loci when cis target genes encoded transcription factors or microRNAs. Networks were themselves enriched for GWAS variants and demonstrated polygenic contributions to complex traits. This platform enables massively parallel characterization of the target genes and mechanisms of human noncoding variants in both cis and trans.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Cells
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Disease* / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Proteomics
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis*