Mutations in non-coding regulatory DNA such as enhancers underlie a wide variety of diseases including developmental disorders and cancer. As enhancers rapidly evolve, understanding their function and configuration in non-human disease models can have important clinical applications. Here, we analyze enhancer configurations in tissues isolated from the common marmoset, a widely used primate model for human disease. Integrating these data with human and mouse data, we find that enhancers containing trait-associated variants are preferentially conserved. In contrast, most human-specific enhancers are highly variable between individuals, with a subset failing to contact promoters. These are located further away from genes and more often reside in inactive B-compartments. Our data show that enhancers typically emerge as instable elements with minimal biological impact prior to their integration in a transcriptional program. Furthermore, our data provide insight into which trait variations in enhancers can be faithfully modeled using the common marmoset.Modeling diseases in non-human species is complicated as many enhancers that regulate expression are species specific. Castelijns et al. demonstrate that species-specific enhancers are highly variable and poorly integrated in the regulatory network, suggesting their biological impact is low. Instead, disease-associated enhancers are typically conserved and can therefore be modeled.

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Cell Reports
Department of Developmental Biology

Castelijns, B. (Bas), Baak, M.L. (Mirna L.), Geeven, G, Vermunt, M.W. (Marit W.), Wiggers, C.R.M. (Caroline R.M.), Timpanaro, I.S. (Ilia S.), … Creyghton, M.P. (Menno P.). (2020). Recently Evolved Enhancers Emerge with High Interindividual Variability and Less Frequently Associate with Disease. Cell Reports, 31(12). doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107799