Tissue-specific transcription factors (TFs) control the transcriptome through an association with noncoding regulatory regions (cistromes). Identifying the combination of TFs that dictate specific cell fate, their specific cistromes and examining their involvement in complex human traits remain a major challenge. Here, we focus on the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), an essential lineage for retinal development and function and the primary tissue affected in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. By combining mechanistic findings in stem-cell-derived human RPE, in vivo functional studies in mice and global transcriptomic and proteomic analyses, we revealed that the key developmental TFs LHX2 and OTX2 function together in transcriptional module containing LDB1 and SWI/SNF (BAF) to regulate the RPE transcriptome. Importantly, the intersection between the identified LHX2-OTX2 cistrome with published expression quantitative trait loci, ATAC-seq data from human RPE, and AMD genome-wide association study (GWAS) data, followed by functional validation using a reporter assay, revealed a causal genetic variant that affects AMD risk by altering TRPM1 expression in the RPE through modulation of LHX2 transcriptional activity on its promoter. Taken together, the reported cistrome of LHX2 and OTX2, the identified downstream genes and interacting co-factors reveal the RPE transcription module and uncover a causal regulatory risk single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the multifactorial common blinding disease AMD.
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© 2023 Cohen-Gulkar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.