A Cre-dependent massively parallel reporter assay allows for cell-type specific assessment of the functional effects of non-coding elements in vivo.
Lagunas T., Plassmeyer SP., Fischer AD., Friedman RZ., Rieger MA., Selmanovic D., Sarafinovska S., Sol YK., Kasper MJ., Fass SB., Aguilar Lucero AF., An J-Y., Sanders SJ., Cohen BA., Dougherty JD.
The function of regulatory elements is highly dependent on the cellular context, and thus for understanding the function of elements associated with psychiatric diseases these would ideally be studied in neurons in a living brain. Massively Parallel Reporter Assays (MPRAs) are molecular genetic tools that enable functional screening of hundreds of predefined sequences in a single experiment. These assays have not yet been adapted to query specific cell types in vivo in a complex tissue like the mouse brain. Here, using a test-case 3'UTR MPRA library with genomic elements containing variants from autism patients, we developed a method to achieve reproducible measurements of element effects in vivo in a cell type-specific manner, using excitatory cortical neurons and striatal medium spiny neurons as test cases. This targeted technique should enable robust, functional annotation of genetic elements in the cellular contexts most relevant to psychiatric disease.