Genetic mapping of cell type specificity for complex traits

Kyoko Watanabe, Maša Umićević Mirkov, Christiaan A. de Leeuw, Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Danielle Posthuma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data allows to create cell type specific transcriptome profiles. Such profiles can be aligned with genome-wide association studies (GWASs) to implicate cell type specificity of the traits. Current methods typically rely only on a small subset of available scRNA-seq datasets, and integrating multiple datasets is hampered by complex batch effects. Here we collated 43 publicly available scRNA-seq datasets. We propose a 3-step workflow with conditional analyses within and between datasets, circumventing batch effects, to uncover associations of traits with cell types. Applying this method to 26 traits, we identify independent associations of multiple cell types. These results lead to starting points for follow-up functional studies aimed at gaining a mechanistic understanding of these traits. The proposed framework as well as the curated scRNA-seq datasets are made available via an online platform, FUMA, to facilitate rapid evaluation of cell type specificity by other researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3222
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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