Understanding the consequences of regulatory variation in the human genome remains a major challenge, with important implications for understanding gene regulation and interpreting themany disease-risk variants that fall outside of protein-coding regions. Here, we provide a direct window into the regulatory consequences of genetic variation by sequencing RNA from 922 genotyped individuals. We present a comprehensive description of the distribution of regulatory variation by the specific expression phenotypes altered, the properties of affected genes, and the genomic characteristics of regulatory variants. We detect variants influencing expression of over ten thousand genes, and through the enhanced resolution offered by RNAsequencing, for the first time we identify thousands of variants associated with specific phenotypes including splicing and allelic expression. Evaluating the effects of both long-range intra-chromosomal and trans (cross-chromosomal) regulation, we observe modularity in the regulatory network, with three-dimensional chromosomal configuration playing a particular role in regulatory modules within each chromosome. We also observe a significant depletion of regulatory variants affecting central and critical genes, along with a trend of reduced effect sizes as variant frequency increases, providing evidence that purifying selection and buffering have limited the deleterious impact of regulatory variation on the cell. Further, generalizing beyond observed variants, we have analyzed the genomic properties of variants associated with expression and splicing and developed a Bayesian model to predict regulatory consequences of genetic variants, applicable to the interpretation of individual genomes and disease studies. Together, these results represent a critical step toward characterizing the complete landscape of human regulatory variation.
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