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Theses Doctoral

Post-transcriptional gene expression regulation in developmental disorders

Kitaygorodsky, Alexander

Gene expression regulation is a set of critical biological processes that give rise to the diversity of cell types across tissues and development stages. Noncoding regions of the genome (intergenic + intronic, >98% of genome) play an important role in these processes, with noncoding genetic variation quantitatively affecting transcriptional activity, splicing of pre-mRNA, and localization, stability, and translational control of mRNA transcripts. Previous genetic studies of human disease have implicated numerous common noncoding loci with small but significant effect in common conditions. Recently, we and others have reported evidence supporting a role of rare noncoding variants with larger effect in early onset conditions such as birth defects and neurodevelopmental disorders. These early onset conditions are quite common in aggregate, affecting over 3% of young children. A better understanding of the functional impact of rare regulatory noncoding variants will enable novel genetic discovery, give insights of disease mechanisms, and ultimately improve diagnosis, treatment, and clinical care.

In this thesis dissertation, I describe three related projects. First, we used a combinatorial multi-testing framework to find excess burden of noncoding de novo mutations in congenital heart disease (impacting both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory stages). This finding was central to the rest of my work, motivating the development of new computational approaches to predict genetic effect of noncoding variants through the lens of post-transcriptional regulation. Second, we used convolutional neural networks to model and understand sequence specific RBP binding processes. Finally, we designed a graphical neural network model capable of integrating cause and consequence to predict genetic effect of rare noncoding variants. In summary, we developed new machine learning methods to analyze multimodal human genome sequencing data, uncover deeper insights into post-transcriptional gene regulatory processes, and advance genomic medicine.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Informatics
Thesis Advisors
Shen, Yufeng
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2021