Scalable approaches for functional analyses of whole-genome sequencing non-coding variants

Non-coding genetic variants outside of protein-coding genome regions play an important role in genetic and epigenetic regulation. It has become increasingly important to understand their roles, as non-coding variants often make up the majority of top findings of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In addition, the growing popularity of disease-specific whole-genome sequencing (WGS) efforts expands the library of and offers unique opportunities for investigating both common and rare non-coding variants, typically not detected in more limited GWAS approaches. However, the sheer size and breadth of WGS data introduces additional challenges to predicting functional impacts in terms of data analysis and interpretation. This review focuses on the recent approaches developed for efficient, at-scale annotation and prioritization of non-coding variants uncovered in WGS analyses. In particular, we review the latest scalable annotation tools, databases, and functional genomic resources for interpreting variant findings from WGS, based on both experimental data and in silico predictive annotations. We also review machine learning-based predictive models for variant scoring and prioritization. We conclude with a discussion of future research directions that will enhance the data and tools necessary for effective functional analyses of variants identified by WGS to improve our understanding of disease etiology.