Functional consequences of genetic variation in the noncoding human genome are difficult to ascertain despite demonstrated associations to common, complex disease traits. To elucidate properties of functional noncoding SNPs with effects in human endothelial cells (ECs), we utilized our previous molecular quantitative trait locus (molQTL) analysis for transcription factor binding, chromatin accessibility, and H3K27 acetylation to nominate a set of likely functional noncoding SNPs. Together with information from genome-wide association studies (GWASs) for vascular disease traits, we tested the ability of 34,344 variants to perturb enhancer function in ECs using the highly multiplexed STARR-seq assay. Of these, 5711 variants validated, whose enriched attributes included: (1) mutations to TF binding motifs for ETS or AP-1 that are regulators of the EC state; (2) location in accessible and H3K27ac-marked EC chromatin; and (3) molQTL associations whereby alleles associate with differences in chromatin accessibility and TF binding across genetically diverse ECs. Next, using pro-inflammatory IL1B as an activator of cell state, we observed robust evidence (>50%) of context-specific SNP effects, underscoring the prevalence of noncoding gene-by-environment (GxE) effects. Lastly, using these cumulative data, we fine-mapped vascular disease loci and highlighted evidence suggesting mechanisms by which noncoding SNPs at two loci affect risk for pulse pressure/large artery stroke and abdominal aortic aneurysm through respective effects on transcriptional regulation of POU4F1 and LDAH. Together, we highlight the attributes and context dependence of functional noncoding SNPs and provide new mechanisms underlying vascular disease risk.
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