Mingyu Liang, MB, PhD, on the Dark Genome in Hypertension Research

“Dark genome” is a term for the part of the genome that does not encode protein and for which there is limited knowledge on biological function and few tools for analysis. As researchers continue the hunt for answers, one expert shone light in the dark genome for hypertension research.

Mingyu Liang, MB, PhD, is a professor and eminent scholar in the Department of Physiology and director of the Center of Systems Molecular Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He answered our questions about the dark genome and the advances made in hypertension research.1,2

CARDIOLOGY CONSULTANT: What role does the genome play in hypertension? 

Mingyu Liang: More than 98% of the human genome does not encode any protein and are sometimes referred to as the “dark genome.” Emerging evidence suggests as much as 80% of the dark genome could have biological activities and that this “regulatory genome” might play an important role in the development of common diseases, such as hypertension.

CARDIO CON: What recent advances have been made in this field?

ML: The regulatory genome may influence biology and disease through several mechanisms, including changes in chromatin conformation, DNA methylation, and noncoding RNA. Recent studies have provided new evidence for the important involvement of each of these mechanisms in hypertension. These studies have contributed to advancing our understanding of humans as molecular systems.

CARDIO CON: What is the key take-home message from your session?

ML: The regulatory genome may influence hypertension through changes in chromatin conformation, DNA methylation, noncoding RNA, and other mechanisms. Approaches in the discipline of molecular systems medicine are particularly suitable for advancing this new area of research.


  1. Liang M. Light in the dark genome for hypertension research. Keynote lecture presented at: American Heart Association Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2019; September 5-8, 2019: New Orleans, LA.!/7943/presentation/65.
  2. Liang M. Epigenetic mechanisms and hypertension. Hypertension. 2018;72(6):1244-1254.