Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

BMC Medical Genomics


Department of Biological Sciences

Additional Department

Geisel School of Medicine



Comparative analysis of gene expression in human tissues is important for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying tissue-specific control of gene expression. It can also open an avenue for using gene expression in blood (which is the most easily accessible human tissue) to predict gene expression in other (less accessible) tissues, which would facilitate the development of novel gene expression based models for assessing disease risk and progression. Until recently, direct comparative analysis across different tissues was not possible due to the scarcity of paired tissue samples from the same individuals.


In this study we used paired whole blood/lung gene expression data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. We built a generalized linear regression model for each gene using gene expression in lung as the outcome and gene expression in blood, age and gender as predictors.


For ~18 % of the genes, gene expression in blood was a significant predictor of gene expression in lung. We found that the number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) influencing expression of a given gene in either blood or lung, also known as the number of quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), was positively associated with efficacy of blood-based prediction of that gene’s expression in lung. This association was strongest for shared eQTLs: those influencing gene expression in both blood and lung.


In conclusion, for a considerable number of human genes, their expression levels in lung can be predicted using observable gene expression in blood. An abundance of shared eQTLs may explain the strong blood/lung correlations in the gene expression.