The study of genetic variation has been revolutionized by the advent of high-throughput technologies able to determine the complete genomic sequence of thousands of individuals. Understanding the functional relevance of variants is, however, still a difficult task, especially when focusing on non-coding variants. Most of the variants associated with disease by Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) are indeed non-coding, and presumably exert their effects by altering gene regulation. Expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTL) studies represent an important step in understanding the functional relevance of regulatory variants. We propose a new strategy to detect and characterize eQTLs, based on the effect of variants on the Total Binding Affinity (TBA) profiles of regulatory regions. Using a large dataset of coupled genome and expression data, we show that TBA-based inference allows the identification of eQTLs not revealed by traditional methods and helps in their interpretation in terms of altered transcription factor binding. © 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany.