Recent Submissions

  • Pharmacological management of fragile X syndrome: a systematic review and narrative summary of the current evidence

    Barwell, Julian (2024-02)
    Introduction: Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited cause of Intellectual Disability. There is a broad phenotype that includes deficits in cognition and behavioral changes, alongside physical characteristics. Phenotype depends upon the level of mutation in the FMR1 (fragile X messenger ribonucleoprotein 1) gene. The molecular understanding of the impact of the FMR1 gene mutation provides an opportunity to target treatment not only at symptoms but also on a molecular level. Methods: We conducted a systematic review to provide an up-to-date narrative summary of the current evidence for pharmacological treatment in FXS. The review was restricted to randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trials. Results: The outcomes from these studies are discussed and the level of evidence assessed against validated criteria. The initial search identified 2377 articles, of which 16 were included in the final analysis. Conclusion: Based on this review to date there is limited data to support any specific pharmacological treatments, although the data for cannabinoids are encouraging in those with FXS and in future developments in gene therapy may provide the answer to the search for precision medicine. Treatment must be person-centered and consider the combination of medical, genetic, cognitive, and emotional challenges.
  • Gain and loss of function variants in EZH1 disrupt neurogenesis and cause dominant and recessive neurodevelopmental disorders

    Vasudevan, Pradeep (2023-07-11)
    Genetic variants in chromatin regulators are frequently found in neurodevelopmental disorders, but their effect in disease etiology is rarely determined. Here, we uncover and functionally define pathogenic variants in the chromatin modifier EZH1 as the cause of dominant and recessive neurodevelopmental disorders in 19 individuals. EZH1 encodes one of the two alternative histone H3 lysine 27 methyltransferases of the PRC2 complex. Unlike the other PRC2 subunits, which are involved in cancers and developmental syndromes, the implication of EZH1 in human development and disease is largely unknown. Using cellular and biochemical studies, we demonstrate that recessive variants impair EZH1 expression causing loss of function effects, while dominant variants are missense mutations that affect evolutionarily conserved aminoacids, likely impacting EZH1 structure or function. Accordingly, we found increased methyltransferase activity leading to gain of function of two EZH1 missense variants. Furthermore, we show that EZH1 is necessary and sufficient for differentiation of neural progenitor cells in the developing chick embryo neural tube. Finally, using human pluripotent stem cell-derived neural cultures and forebrain organoids, we demonstrate that EZH1 variants perturb cortical neuron differentiation. Overall, our work reveals a critical role of EZH1 in neurogenesis regulation and provides molecular diagnosis for previously undefined neurodevelopmental disorders.
  • PCSK6 and survival in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

    Tobin, Martin (2023-06-01)
    Rationale: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating disease characterized by limited treatment options and high mortality. A better understanding of the molecular drivers of IPF progression is needed. Objectives: To identify and validate molecular determinants of IPF survival. Methods: A staged genome-wide association study was performed using paired genomic and survival data. Stage I cases were drawn from centers across the United States and Europe and stage II cases from Vanderbilt University. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify gene variants associated with differential transplantation-free survival (TFS). Stage I variants with nominal significance (P < 5 × 10-5) were advanced for stage II testing and meta-analyzed to identify those reaching genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10-8). Downstream analyses were performed for genes and proteins associated with variants reaching genome-wide significance. Measurements and Main Results: After quality controls, 1,481 stage I cases and 397 stage II cases were included in the analysis. After filtering, 9,075,629 variants were tested in stage I, with 158 meeting advancement criteria. Four variants associated with TFS with consistent effect direction were identified in stage II, including one in an intron of PCSK6 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 6) reaching genome-wide significance (hazard ratio, 4.11 [95% confidence interval, 2.54-6.67]; P = 9.45 × 10-9). PCSK6 protein was highly expressed in IPF lung parenchyma. PCSK6 lung staining intensity, peripheral blood gene expression, and plasma concentration were associated with reduced TFS. Conclusions: We identified four novel variants associated with IPF survival, including one in PCSK6 that reached genome-wide significance. Downstream analyses suggested that PCSK6 protein plays a potentially important role in IPF progression.
  • Identification and characterisation of a rare MTTP variant underlying hereditary non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

    Barwell, Julian; Gupta, Pankaj; Neal, Christopher P; Tobin, Martin D; Vemala, Vishwaray M (2023-04-23)
    Background & aims: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a complex trait with an estimated prevalence of 25% globally. We aimed to identify the genetic variant underlying a four-generation family with progressive NAFLD leading to cirrhosis, decompensation, and development of hepatocellular carcinoma in the absence of common risk factors such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Methods: Exome sequencing and genome comparisons were used to identify the likely causal variant. We extensively characterised the clinical phenotype and post-prandial metabolic responses of family members with the identified novel variant in comparison with healthy non-carriers and wild-type patients with NAFLD. Variant-expressing hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) were derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells generated from homozygous donor skin fibroblasts and restored to wild-type using CRISPR-Cas9. The phenotype was assessed using imaging, targeted RNA analysis, and molecular expression arrays. Results: We identified a rare causal variant c.1691T>C p.I564T (rs745447480) in MTTP, encoding microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP), associated with progressive NAFLD, unrelated to metabolic syndrome and without characteristic features of abetalipoproteinaemia. HLCs derived from a homozygote donor had significantly lower MTP activity and lower lipoprotein ApoB secretion than wild-type cells, while having similar levels of MTP mRNA and protein. Cytoplasmic triglyceride accumulation in HLCs triggered endoplasmic reticulum stress, secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators, and production of reactive oxygen species. Conclusions: We have identified and characterised a rare causal variant in MTTP, and homozygosity for MTTP p.I564T is associated with progressive NAFLD without any other manifestations of abetalipoproteinaemia. Our findings provide insights into mechanisms driving progressive NAFLD. Impact and implications: A rare genetic variant in the gene MTTP has been identified as responsible for the development of severe non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a four-generation family with no typical disease risk factors. A cell line culture created harbouring this variant gene was characterised to understand how this genetic variation leads to a defect in liver cells, which results in accumulation of fat and processes that promote disease. This is now a useful model for studying the disease pathways and to discover new ways to treat common types of fatty liver disease.
  • A polygenic risk score for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung abnormalities

    Tobin, Martin (2023-10-01)
    Rationale: In addition to rare genetic variants and the MUC5B locus, common genetic variants contribute to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) risk. The predictive power of common variants outside the MUC5B locus for IPF and interstitial lung abnormalities (ILAs) is unknown. Objectives: We tested the predictive value of IPF polygenic risk scores (PRSs) with and without the MUC5B region on IPF, ILA, and ILA progression. Methods: We developed PRSs that included (PRS-M5B) and excluded (PRS-NO-M5B) the MUC5B region (500-kb window around rs35705950-T) using an IPF genome-wide association study. We assessed PRS associations with area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) metrics for IPF, ILA, and ILA progression. Measurements and Main Results: We included 14,650 participants (1,970 IPF; 1,068 ILA) from six multi-ancestry population-based and case-control cohorts. In cases excluded from genome-wide association study, the PRS-M5B (odds ratio [OR] per SD of the score, 3.1; P = 7.1 × 10-95) and PRS-NO-M5B (OR per SD, 2.8; P = 2.5 × 10-87) were associated with IPF. Participants in the top PRS-NO-M5B quintile had ∼sevenfold odds for IPF compared with those in the first quintile. A clinical model predicted IPF (AUC, 0.61); rs35705950-T and PRS-NO-M5B demonstrated higher AUCs (0.73 and 0.7, respectively), and adding both genetic predictors to a clinical model yielded the highest performance (AUC, 0.81). The PRS-NO-M5B was associated with ILA (OR, 1.25) and ILA progression (OR, 1.16) in European ancestry participants. Conclusions: A common genetic variant risk score complements the MUC5B variant to identify individuals at high risk of interstitial lung abnormalities and pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Identification and characterisation of a rare MTTP variant underlying hereditary non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

    Barwell, Julian; Gupta, Pankaj; Vemala, Vishwaraj; Grant, Allister (21/04/2023)
    Background & aims: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a complex trait with an estimated prevalence of 25% globally. We aimed to identify the genetic variant underlying a four-generation family with progressive NAFLD leading to cirrhosis, decompensation, and development of hepatocellular carcinoma in the absence of common risk factors such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Methods: Exome sequencing and genome comparisons were used to identify the likely causal variant. We extensively characterised the clinical phenotype and post-prandial metabolic responses of family members with the identified novel variant in comparison with healthy non-carriers and wild-type patients with NAFLD. Variant-expressing hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) were derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells generated from homozygous donor skin fibroblasts and restored to wild-type using CRISPR-Cas9. The phenotype was assessed using imaging, targeted RNA analysis, and molecular expression arrays. Results: We identified a rare causal variant c.1691T>C p.I564T (rs745447480) in MTTP, encoding microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP), associated with progressive NAFLD, unrelated to metabolic syndrome and without characteristic features of abetalipoproteinaemia. HLCs derived from a homozygote donor had significantly lower MTP activity and lower lipoprotein ApoB secretion than wild-type cells, while having similar levels of MTP mRNA and protein. Cytoplasmic triglyceride accumulation in HLCs triggered endoplasmic reticulum stress, secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators, and production of reactive oxygen species. Conclusions: We have identified and characterised a rare causal variant in MTTP, and homozygosity for MTTP p.I564T is associated with progressive NAFLD without any other manifestations of abetalipoproteinaemia. Our findings provide insights into mechanisms driving progressive NAFLD. Impact and implications: A rare genetic variant in the gene MTTP has been identified as responsible for the development of severe non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a four-generation family with no typical disease risk factors. A cell line culture created harbouring this variant gene was characterised to understand how this genetic variation leads to a defect in liver cells, which results in accumulation of fat and processes that promote disease. This is now a useful model for studying the disease pathways and to discover new ways to treat common types of fatty liver disease.
  • FLT3 inhibitors as MRD-guided salvage treatment for molecular failure in FLT3 mutated AML

    Hodgson, Katherine (2023-08-09)
    Patients with FLT3-mutated AML have a high relapse rate and suboptimal outcomes. Many have co-mutations suitable for measurable residual disease (MRD) monitoring by RT-qPCR and those destined to relapse can be identified by high or rising levels of MRD, called molecular failure. This provides a window for pre-emptive intervention, but there is little evidence to guide treatment. The use of FLT3 inhibitors (FLT3i) appears attractive but their use has not yet been evaluated. We identified 56 patients treated with FLT3i at molecular failure. The FLT3 mutation was an ITD in 52, TKD in 7 and both in 3. Over half of patients had previously received midostaurin. Molecular failure occurred at a median 9.2 months from diagnosis and was treated with gilteritinib (n = 38), quizartinib (n = 7) or sorafenib (n = 11). 60% achieved a molecular response, with 45% reaching MRD negativity. Haematological toxicity was low, and 22 patients were bridged directly to allogeneic transplant with another 6 to donor lymphocyte infusion. 2-year overall survival was 80% (95%CI 69-93) and molecular event-free survival 56% (95%CI 44-72). High-sensitivity next-generation sequencing for FLT3-ITD at molecular failure identified patients more likely to benefit. FLT3i monotherapy for molecular failure is a promising strategy which merits evaluation in prospective studies.
  • Models of KPTN-related disorder implicate mTOR signalling in cognitive and overgrowth phenotypes

    Vasudevan, Pradeep (2023-07-12)
    KPTN-related disorder is an autosomal recessive disorder associated with germline variants in KPTN (previously known as kaptin), a component of the mTOR regulatory complex KICSTOR. To gain further insights into the pathogenesis of KPTN-related disorder, we analysed mouse knockout and human stem cell KPTN loss-of-function models. Kptn-/- mice display many of the key KPTN-related disorder phenotypes, including brain overgrowth, behavioural abnormalities, and cognitive deficits. By assessment of affected individuals, we have identified widespread cognitive deficits (n=6) and postnatal onset of brain overgrowth (n=19). By analysing head size data from their parents (n=24), we have identified a previously unrecognised KPTN dosage-sensitivity, resulting in increased head circumference in heterozygous carriers of pathogenic KPTN variants. Molecular and structural analysis of Kptn-/- mice revealed pathological changes, including differences in brain size, shape, and cell numbers primarily due to abnormal postnatal brain development. Both the mouse and differentiated iPSC models of the disorder display transcriptional and biochemical evidence for altered mTOR pathway signalling, supporting the role of KPTN in regulating mTORC1. By treatment in our KPTN mouse model, we find that the increased mTOR signalling downstream of KPTN is rapamycin sensitive, highlighting possible therapeutic avenues with currently available mTOR inhibitors. These findings place KPTN-related disorder in the broader group of mTORC1 related disorders affecting brain structure, cognitive function, and network integrity.
  • Alcohol consumption and telomere length: Mendelian randomization clarifies alcohol's effects

    Samani, Nilesh (2022-07-26)
    Alcohol's impact on telomere length, a proposed marker of biological aging, is unclear. We performed the largest observational study to date (in n = 245,354 UK Biobank participants) and compared findings with Mendelian randomization (MR) estimates. Two-sample MR used data from 472,174 participants in a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) of telomere length. Genetic variants were selected on the basis of associations with alcohol consumption (n = 941,280) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) (n = 57,564 cases). Non-linear MR employed UK Biobank individual data. MR analyses suggested a causal relationship between alcohol traits, more strongly for AUD, and telomere length. Higher genetically-predicted AUD (inverse variance-weighted (IVW) β = -0.06, 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.10 to -0.02, p = 0.001) was associated with shorter telomere length. There was a weaker association with genetically-predicted alcoholic drinks weekly (IVW β = -0.07, CI: -0.14 to -0.01, p = 0.03). Results were consistent across methods and independent from smoking. Non-linear analyses indicated a potential threshold relationship between alcohol and telomere length. Our findings indicate that alcohol consumption may shorten telomere length. There are implications for age-related diseases.
  • Analysis of rare disruptive germline mutations in 2135 enriched BRCA-negative breast cancers excludes additional high-impact susceptibility genes

    Barwell, Julian (2022-09-16)
    Background: Breast cancer has a significant heritable basis, of which ∼60% remains unexplained. Testing for BRCA1/BRCA2 offers useful discrimination of breast cancer risk within families, and identification of additional breast cancer susceptibility genes could offer clinical utility. Patients and methods: We included 2135 invasive breast cancer cases recruited via the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility study, a retrospective UK study of familial breast cancer. Eligibility criteria: female, BRCA-negative, white European ethnicity, and one of: (i) breast cancer family history, (ii) bilateral disease, (iii) young age of onset (<30 years), and (iv) concomitant ovarian cancer. We undertook exome sequencing of cases and carried out gene-level burden testing of rare damaging variants against those from 51 377 ethnicity-matched population controls from gnomAD. Results: 159/2135 (7.4%) cases had a qualifying variant in an established breast cancer susceptibility gene, with minimal evidence of signal in other cancer susceptibility genes. Known breast cancer susceptibility genes PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM were the only genes to retain statistical significance after correcting for multiple testing. Due to the enrichment of hereditary cases in the series, we had good power (>80%) to detect a gene of BRCA1-like risk [odds ratio (OR) = 10.6] down to a population minor allele frequency of 4.6 × 10-5 (1 in 10 799, less than one-tenth that of BRCA1)and of PALB2-like risk (OR = 5.0) down to a population minor allele frequency of 2.8 × 10-4 (1 in 1779, less than half that of PALB2). Power was lower for identification of novel moderate penetrance genes (OR = 2-3) like CHEK2 and ATM. Conclusions: This is the largest case-control whole-exome analysis of enriched breast cancer published to date. Whilst additional breast cancer susceptibility genes likely exist, those of high penetrance are likely to be of very low mutational frequency. Contention exists regarding the clinical utility of such genes.
  • Genetic insights into smoking behaviours in 10,558 men of African ancestry from continental Africa and the UK

    Tobin, Martin (2022-11-05)
    Smoking is a leading risk factor for many of the top ten causes of death worldwide. Of the 1.3 billion smokers globally, 80% live in low- and middle-income countries, where the number of deaths due to tobacco use is expected to double in the next decade according to the World Health Organization. Genetic studies have helped to identify biological pathways for smoking behaviours, but have mostly focussed on individuals of European ancestry or living in either North America or Europe. We performed a genome-wide association study of two smoking behaviour traits in 10,558 men of African ancestry living in five African countries and the UK. Eight independent variants were associated with either smoking initiation or cessation at P-value < 5 × 10-6, four being monomorphic or rare in European populations. Gene prioritisation strategy highlighted five genes, including SEMA6D, previously described as associated with several smoking behaviour traits. These results confirm the importance of analysing underrepresented populations in genetic epidemiology, and the urgent need for larger genomic studies to boost discovery power to better understand smoking behaviours, as well as many other traits.
  • Telomere length and risk of incident fracture and arthroplasty: Findings from UK biobank

    Nelson, Christopher; Samani, Nilesh (2022-07-25)
    We investigated independent associations between telomere length and risk of fracture and arthroplasty in UK Biobank participants. Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) was measured in baseline samples using a validated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. We used, in men and women separately, Cox proportional hazards models to calculate the hazard ratio (HR) for incident fracture (any, osteoporotic) or arthroplasty (hip or knee) over 1,186,410 person-years of follow-up. Covariates included age, white cell count, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol, physical activity, and menopause (women). In further analyses we adjusted for either estimated bone mineral density (eBMD) from heel quantitative ultrasound, handgrip strength, gait speed, total fat mass (bioimpedance), or blood biomarkers, all measured at baseline (2006-2010). We studied 59,500 women and 51,895 men, mean ± standard deviation (SD) age 56.4 ± 8.0 and 57.0 ± 8.3 years, respectively. During follow-up there were 5619 fractures; 5285 hip and 4261 knee arthroplasties. In confounder-adjusted models, longer LTL was associated with reduced risk of incident knee arthroplasty in both men (HR/SD 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.88-0.97) and women (0.92; 95% CI, 0.88-0.96), and hip arthroplasty in men (0.91; 95% CI, 0.87-0.95), but not women (0.98; 95% CI, 0.94-1.01). Longer LTL was weakly associated with reduced risk of any incident fracture in women (HR/SD 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-1.00) with less evidence in men (0.98; 95% CI, 0.93-1.02). Associations with incident outcomes were not materially altered by adjustment for heel eBMD, grip strength, gait speed, fat mass, or blood biomarker measures. In this, the largest study to date, longer LTL was associated with lower risk of incident knee or hip arthroplasty, but only weakly associated with lower risk of fracture. The relative risks were low at a population level, but our findings suggest that common factors acting on the myeloid and musculoskeletal systems might influence later life musculoskeletal outcomes. © 2022 The Authors. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).
  • A saturated map of common genetic variants associated with human height

    Nelson, Christopher; Samani, Nilesh (2022-10-12)
    Common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are predicted to collectively explain 40-50% of phenotypic variation in human height, but identifying the specific variants and associated regions requires huge sample sizes1. Here, using data from a genome-wide association study of 5.4 million individuals of diverse ancestries, we show that 12,111 independent SNPs that are significantly associated with height account for nearly all of the common SNP-based heritability. These SNPs are clustered within 7,209 non-overlapping genomic segments with a mean size of around 90 kb, covering about 21% of the genome. The density of independent associations varies across the genome and the regions of increased density are enriched for biologically relevant genes. In out-of-sample estimation and prediction, the 12,111 SNPs (or all SNPs in the HapMap 3 panel2) account for 40% (45%) of phenotypic variance in populations of European ancestry but only around 10-20% (14-24%) in populations of other ancestries. Effect sizes, associated regions and gene prioritization are similar across ancestries, indicating that reduced prediction accuracy is likely to be explained by linkage disequilibrium and differences in allele frequency within associated regions. Finally, we show that the relevant biological pathways are detectable with smaller sample sizes than are needed to implicate causal genes and variants. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive map of specific genomic regions that contain the vast majority of common height-associated variants. Although this map is saturated for populations of European ancestry, further research is needed to achieve equivalent saturation in other ancestries.
  • Gain-of-function mutations in KCNK3 cause a developmental disorder with sleep apnea

    Vasudevan, Pradeep (2022-10-04)
    Sleep apnea is a common disorder that represents a global public health burden. KCNK3 encodes TASK-1, a K+ channel implicated in the control of breathing, but its link with sleep apnea remains poorly understood. Here we describe a new developmental disorder with associated sleep apnea (developmental delay with sleep apnea, or DDSA) caused by rare de novo gain-of-function mutations in KCNK3. The mutations cluster around the 'X-gate', a gating motif that controls channel opening, and produce overactive channels that no longer respond to inhibition by G-protein-coupled receptor pathways. However, despite their defective X-gating, these mutant channels can still be inhibited by a range of known TASK channel inhibitors. These results not only highlight an important new role for TASK-1 K+ channels and their link with sleep apnea but also identify possible therapeutic strategies.
  • SDHC phaeochromocytoma and paraganglioma: A UK-wide case series

    Dorkins, Huw (2021-09-24)
    Objective: Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGL) are rare, but strongly heritable tumours. Variants in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) subunits are identified in approximately 25% of cases. However, clinical and genetic information of patients with SDHC variants are underreported. Design: This retrospective case series collated data from 18 UK Genetics and Endocrinology departments. Patients: Both asymptomatic and disease-affected patients with confirmed SDHC germline variants are included. Measurements: Clinical data including tumour type and location, surveillance outcomes and interventions, SDHC genetic variant assessment, interpretation, and tumour risk calculation. Results: We report 91 SDHC cases, 46 probands and 45 non-probands. Fifty-one cases were disease-affected. Median age at genetic diagnosis was 43 years (range: 11-79). Twenty-four SDHC germline variants were identified including six novel variants. Head and neck paraganglioma (HNPGL, n = 30, 65.2%), extra-adrenal paraganglioma (EAPGL, n = 13, 28.2%) and phaeochromocytomas (PCC) (n = 3, 6.5%) were present. One case had multiple PPGLs. Malignant disease was reported in 19.6% (9/46). Eight cases had non-PPGL SDHC-associated tumours, six gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) and two renal cell cancers (RCC). Cumulative tumour risk (95% CI) at age 60 years was 0.94 (CI: 0.79-0.99) in probands, and 0.16 (CI: 0-0.31) in non-probands, respectively. Conclusions: This study describes the largest cohort of 91 SDHC patients worldwide. We confirm disease-affected SDHC variant cases develop isolated HNPGL disease in nearly 2/3 of patients, EAPGL and PCC in 1/3, with an increased risk of GIST and RCC. One fifth developed malignant disease, requiring comprehensive lifelong tumour screening and surveillance.
  • The power of genetic diversity in genome-wide association studies of lipids

    Nelson, Christopher; Samani, Nilesh (2021-12-09)
    Increased blood lipid levels are heritable risk factors of cardiovascular disease with varied prevalence worldwide owing to different dietary patterns and medication use1. Despite advances in prevention and treatment, in particular through reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels2, heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide3. Genome-wideassociation studies (GWAS) of blood lipid levels have led to important biological and clinical insights, as well as new drug targets, for cardiovascular disease. However, most previous GWAS4-23 have been conducted in European ancestry populations and may have missed genetic variants that contribute to lipid-level variation in other ancestry groups. These include differences in allele frequencies, effect sizes and linkage-disequilibrium patterns24. Here we conduct a multi-ancestry, genome-wide genetic discovery meta-analysis of lipid levels in approximately 1.65 million individuals, including 350,000 of non-European ancestries. We quantify the gain in studying non-European ancestries and provide evidence to support the expansion of recruitment of additional ancestries, even with relatively small sample sizes. We find that increasing diversity rather than studying additional individuals of European ancestry results in substantial improvements in fine-mapping functional variants and portability of polygenic prediction (evaluated in approximately 295,000 individuals from 7 ancestry groupings). Modest gains in the number of discovered loci and ancestry-specific variants were also achieved. As GWAS expand emphasis beyond the identification of genes and fundamental biology towards the use of genetic variants for preventive and precision medicine25, we anticipate that increased diversity of participants will lead to more accurate and equitable26 application of polygenic scores in clinical practice.
  • Breast and prostate cancer risks for male BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variant carriers using polygenic risk scores

    Barwell, Julian (2021-07-28)
    Background: Recent population-based female breast cancer and prostate cancer polygenic risk scores (PRS) have been developed. We assessed the associations of these PRS with breast and prostate cancer risks for male BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variant carriers. Methods: 483 BRCA1 and 1318 BRCA2 European ancestry male carriers were available from the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2 (CIMBA). A 147-single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) prostate cancer PRS (PRSPC) and a 313-SNP breast cancer PRS were evaluated. There were 3 versions of the breast cancer PRS, optimized to predict overall (PRSBC), estrogen receptor (ER)-negative (PRSER-), or ER-positive (PRSER+) breast cancer risk. Results: PRSER+ yielded the strongest association with breast cancer risk. The odds ratios (ORs) per PRSER+ standard deviation estimates were 1.40 (95% confidence interval [CI] =1.07 to 1.83) for BRCA1 and 1.33 (95% CI = 1.16 to 1.52) for BRCA2 carriers. PRSPC was associated with prostate cancer risk for BRCA1 (OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.28 to 2.33) and BRCA2 (OR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.34 to 1.91) carriers. The estimated breast cancer odds ratios were larger after adjusting for female relative breast cancer family history. By age 85 years, for BRCA2 carriers, the breast cancer risk varied from 7.7% to 18.4% and prostate cancer risk from 34.1% to 87.6% between the 5th and 95th percentiles of the PRS distributions. Conclusions: Population-based prostate and female breast cancer PRS are associated with a wide range of absolute breast and prostate cancer risks for male BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers. These findings warrant further investigation aimed at providing personalized cancer risks for male carriers and informing clinical management.
  • Exome sequencing efficacy and phenotypic expansions involving esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula plus

    Vasudevan, Pradeep (2022-09-22)
    Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF) is a life-threatening birth defect that often occurs with other major birth defects (EA/TEF+). Despite advances in genetic testing, a molecular diagnosis can only be made in a minority of EA/TEF+ cases. Here, we analyzed clinical exome sequencing data and data from the DECIPHER database to determine the efficacy of exome sequencing in cases of EA/TEF+ and to identify phenotypic expansions involving EA/TEF. Among 67 individuals with EA/TEF+ referred for clinical exome sequencing, a definitive or probable diagnosis was made in 11 cases for an efficacy rate of 16% (11/67). This efficacy rate is significantly lower than that reported for other major birth defects, suggesting that polygenic, multifactorial, epigenetic, and/or environmental factors may play a particularly important role in EA/TEF pathogenesis. Our cohort included individuals with pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants that affect TCF4 and its downstream target NRXN1, and FANCA, FANCB, and FANCC, which are associated with Fanconi anemia. These cases, previously published case reports, and comparisons to other EA/TEF genes made using a machine learning algorithm, provide evidence in support of a potential pathogenic role for these genes in the development of EA/TEF.
  • Panel sequencing links rare, likely damaging gene variants with distinct clinical phenotypes and outcomes in juvenile-onset SLE

    Sridhar, Arani (2022-05-09)
    Objectives: Juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (jSLE) affects 15-20% of lupus patients. Clinical heterogeneity between racial groups, age groups and individual patients suggests variable pathophysiology. This study aimed to identify highly penetrant damaging mutations in genes associated with SLE/SLE-like disease in a large national cohort (UK JSLE Cohort Study) and compare demographic, clinical and laboratory features in patient sub-cohorts with 'genetic' SLE vs remaining SLE patients. Methods: Based on a sequencing panel designed in 2018, target enrichment and next-generation sequencing were performed in 348 patients to identify damaging gene variants. Findings were integrated with demographic, clinical and treatment related datasets. Results: Damaging gene variants were identified in ∼3.5% of jSLE patients. When compared with the remaining cohort, 'genetic' SLE affected younger children and more Black African/Caribbean patients. 'Genetic' SLE patients exhibited less organ involvement and damage, and neuropsychiatric involvement developed over time. Less aggressive first line treatment was chosen in 'genetic' SLE patients, but more second and third line agents were used. 'Genetic' SLE associated with anti-dsDNA antibody positivity at diagnosis and reduced ANA, anti-LA and anti-Sm antibody positivity at last visit. Conclusion: Approximately 3.5% of jSLE patients present damaging gene variants associated with younger age at onset, and distinct clinical features. As less commonly observed after treatment induction, in 'genetic' SLE, autoantibody positivity may be the result of tissue damage and explain reduced immune complex-mediated renal and haematological involvement. Routine sequencing could allow for patient stratification, risk assessment and target-directed treatment, thereby increasing efficacy and reducing toxicity.
  • Identification of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer germline variants in Granada (Spain): NGS perspective

    Barwell, Julian (2022-04-22)
    The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of germline variants in cancer-predisposing genes by either targeted (BRCA1/2) or multigene NGS panel in a high-risk Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) cohort. Samples from 824 Caucasian probands were retrospectively collected and the impact of genetic diagnosis and genetic variants epidemiology in this cohort was evaluated. Performance of risk-reducing prophylactic measures, such as prophylactic mastectomy and/or prophylactic oophorectomy, was assessed through clinical follow-up of patients with a positive genetic result. Pathogenic variants predisposing to HBOC were identified in 11.9% (98/824) individuals at BRCA2 (47/98), BRCA1 (24/98), PALB2 (8/51), ATM (7/51), CHEK2 (6/51) MSH6, (2/51), RAD51C (2/51) and TP53 (2/386). Of them, 11 novel pathogenic variants and 12 VUS were identified, characterized, and submitted to ClinVar. Regarding clinical impact, the risk of developing basal or Her2 breast cancer was increased 15.7 times or 37.5 times for BRCA1 and MSH6 pathogenic variants respectively. On the contrary, the risk of developing basal or luminal A breast cancer was reduced to 81% or 77% for BRCA2 and BRCA1 pathogenic variants, respectively. Finally, 53.2% of individuals testing positive for class IV/V variants underwent prophylactic surgery (mastectomy, oophorectomy or both) being significantly younger at the cancer diagnosis than those undertaking prophylactic measures (p = 0.008). Of them, 8 carried a pathogenic/likely pathogenic variant in other genes different from BRCA1 and BRCA2, and the remaining (46.7%) decided to continue with clinical follow-up. No differences in pathogenicity or risk of developing cancer were found for BRCA1/2 between targeted and multigene sequencing strategies; however, NGS was able to resolve a greater proportion of high-risk patients.

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