Dosage-sensitive molecular mechanisms are associated with the tissue-specificity of traits and diseases

Juman Jubran, Idan Hekselman, Lena Novack, Esti Yeger-Lotem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hereditary diseases and complex traits often manifest in specific tissues, whereas their causal genes are expressed in many tissues that remain unaffected. Among the mechanisms that have been suggested for this enigmatic phenomenon is dosage-sensitive compensation by paralogs of causal genes. Accordingly, tissue-selectivity stems from dosage imbalance between causal genes and paralogs that occurs particularly in disease-susceptible tissues. Here, we used a large-scale dataset of thousands of tissue transcriptomes and applied a linear mixed model (LMM) framework to assess this and other dosage-sensitive mechanisms. LMM analysis of 382 hereditary diseases consistently showed evidence for dosage-sensitive compensation by paralogs across diseases subsets and susceptible tissues. LMM analysis of 135 candidate genes that are strongly associated with 16 tissue-selective complex traits revealed a similar tendency among half of the trait-associated genes. This suggests that dosage-sensitive compensation by paralogs affects the tissue-selectivity of complex traits, and can be used to illuminate candidate genes' modes of action. Next, we applied LMM to analyze dosage imbalance between causal genes and three classes of genetic modifiers, including regulatory micro-RNAs, pseudogenes, and genetic interactors. Our results propose modifiers as a fundamental axis in tissue-selectivity of diseases and traits, and demonstrates the power of LMM as a statistical framework for discovering treatment avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4024-4032
Number of pages9
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Complex traits
  • Data integration
  • Hereditary diseases
  • Linear mixed models
  • Paralogs


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