Human Molecular Genomics


The main goal of the Human Molecular Genomics Group is to understand the role of non-coding mutations and structural variants as the cause of human disease. We aim to understand the pleiotropic effects of mutations and structural variants during embryogenesis and investigate their influence on the 3D architecture of the genome. In order to achieve this goal, we are applying the latest high-throughput technologies during mouse embryonic development including single cell analysis, chromosome conformation capture techniques and massively parallel reporter assays

Single-cell human genetics: Pleiotropic effects of mutations and structural variants during embryonic development at single cell resolution 

We are applying single cell RNA and single cell ATAC sequencing to mouse embryos harboring mutations and structural variants of patients with congenital disease. For the first time, this enables the single cell analysis of whole mouse embryos and thus allows the investigation of the pleiotropic effects of mutations and structural variants at the single cell level in a complex organism. Different organs and cell subpopulations react completely differently to mutations and show very specific cellular phenotypes. These analyses are of enormous interest for human genetics as genotype-phenotype correlations are extremely difficult to understand since the severity of genetic disorders can differ even in individuals with mutations in the same gene.

The Single Cell Transcriptional Landscape of Mammalian Organogenesis

See how researchers at the Allen Discovery Center at UW Medicine traced an important period of organ formation, cell by cell, in the developing mouse. Video credit: Topla Studio.

Structural variants in congenital malformations and their influence on the 3D architecture of the genome

Structural variation in the 3D genome

Deletions, duplications and inversions can alter the cis-regulatory 3D architecture of the non-coding genome by altering the positions of TADs and boundaries, leading to misregulation of genes and congenital malformation. We have previously shown that these position effects of non-coding DNA with up to 56% are an important mutational mechanism in congenital limb malformations. Using whole genome sequencing, we are investigating further clinical cohorts including brain malformations and patients with developmental delay on non-coding variants. Functional follow up studies are performed in mouse models.

High throughput analysis methods for the evaluation of non-coding variants from whole genome sequencing data

With the introduction of NGS technologies and Whole Genome Sequencing in clinical practice, the number of genetic variants increases exponentially and about 60-100 de novo variants are detected per family. The sheer number of the variants makes traditional functional analyses impossible. Therefore, we are applying massively parallel reporter assays (MPRAs) for the simultaneous investigation of thousands of non-coding variants in vitro and in vivo. These data have a direct impact on clinical genetics, as the medical interpretation of variants of variants uncertain (or unknown) significance is currently one of the central challenges of human genetics.

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