Complex brain disorders are highly heritable and arise from a complex polygenic risk architecture. Many disease-associated loci are found in non-coding regions that house regulatory elements. These elements influence the transcription of target genes—many of which demonstrate cell-type-specific expression patterns—and thereby affect phenotypically relevant molecular pathways. Thus, cell-type-specificity must be considered when prioritizing candidate risk loci, variants and target genes. This Review discusses the use of high-throughput assays in human induced pluripotent stem cell-based neurodevelopmental models to probe genetic risk in a cell-type- and patient-specific manner. The application of massively parallel reporter assays in human induced pluripotent stem cells can characterize the human regulome and test the transcriptional responses of putative regulatory elements. Parallel CRISPR-based screens can further functionally dissect this genetic regulatory architecture. The integration of these emerging technologies could decode genetic risk into medically actionable information, thereby improving genetic diagnosis and identifying novel points of therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1509-1521
Number of pages13
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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