Publications by authors named "Nikolas Pontikos"

92 Publications

Phenotype-aware prioritisation of rare Mendelian disease variants.

Trends Genet 2022 Aug 4. Epub 2022 Aug 4.

William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London, London, EC1M 6BQ, UK; UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, EC1V 9EL, UK; Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, EC1V 2PD, UK; UCL Genetics Institute, University College London, London, WC1E 6AA, UK. Electronic address:

A molecular diagnosis from the analysis of sequencing data in rare Mendelian diseases has a huge impact on the management of patients and their families. Numerous patient phenotype-aware variant prioritisation (VP) tools have been developed to help automate this process, and shorten the diagnostic odyssey, but performance statistics on real patient data are limited. Here we identify, assess, and compare the performance of all up-to-date, freely available, and programmatically accessible tools using a whole-exome, retinal disease dataset from 134 individuals with a molecular diagnosis. All tools were able to identify around two-thirds of the genetic diagnoses as the top-ranked candidate, with LIRICAL performing best overall. Finally, we discuss the challenges to overcome most cases remaining undiagnosed after current, state-of-the-art practices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2022.07.002DOI Listing
August 2022

Germline thymidylate synthase deficiency impacts nucleotide metabolism and causes dyskeratosis congenita.

Am J Hum Genet 2022 08;109(8):1472-1483

Genomics and Child Health, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London, Newark Street, London E1 2AT, UK; Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK.

Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is an inherited bone-marrow-failure disorder characterized by a triad of mucocutaneous features that include abnormal skin pigmentation, nail dystrophy, and oral leucoplakia. Despite the identification of several genetic variants that cause DC, a significant proportion of probands remain without a molecular diagnosis. In a cohort of eight independent DC-affected families, we have identified a remarkable series of heterozygous germline variants in the gene encoding thymidylate synthase (TYMS). Although the inheritance appeared to be autosomal recessive, one parent in each family had a wild-type TYMS coding sequence. Targeted genomic sequencing identified a specific haplotype and rare variants in the naturally occurring TYMS antisense regulator ENOSF1 (enolase super family 1) inherited from the other parent. Lymphoblastoid cells from affected probands have severe TYMS deficiency, altered cellular deoxyribonucleotide triphosphate pools, and hypersensitivity to the TYMS-specific inhibitor 5-fluorouracil. These defects in the nucleotide metabolism pathway resulted in genotoxic stress, defective transcription, and abnormal telomere maintenance. Gene-rescue studies in cells from affected probands revealed that post-transcriptional epistatic silencing of TYMS is occurring via elevated ENOSF1. These cell and molecular abnormalities generated by the combination of germline digenic variants at the TYMS-ENOSF1 locus represent a unique pathogenetic pathway for DC causation in these affected individuals, whereas the parents who are carriers of either of these variants in a singular fashion remain unaffected.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2022.06.014DOI Listing
August 2022

A recurrent variant in causes an isolated congenital sutural/lamellar cataract in a Japanese family.

Ophthalmic Genet 2022 Jun 23:1-5. Epub 2022 Jun 23.

Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Genetically determined cataract is both clinically and molecularly highly heterogeneous. Here, we have identified a heterozygous variant in the lens integral membrane protein LIM2, the second most abundant protein in the lens, responsible for congenital sutural/lamellar cataract in a three-generation Japanese family.

Methods: Whole exome sequencing (WES) was undertaken in one affected and one unaffected individual from a family with autosomal dominant congenital cataract to establish the underlying genetic basis.

Results: A recurrent missense variant LIM2: c.388C>T; p.R130C was identified and found to co-segregate with disease. In addition, one variant COL11A1:c.3788C>T of unknown significance (VUS) was also identified.

Conclusions: We report a variant in LIM2 causing an isolated autosomal-dominant congenital sutural/lamellar cataract in a Japanese family. This is the first report of a LIM2 variant in the Japanese population. Hence, we expand the mutation spectrum of LIM2 variants in different ethnic groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13816810.2022.2090010DOI Listing
June 2022

Electrical responses from human retinal cone pathways associate with a common genetic polymorphism implicated in myopia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2022 05 20;119(21):e2119675119. Epub 2022 May 20.

Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London EC1V 9EL, United Kingdom.

Myopia is the commonest visual impairment. Several genetic loci confer risk, but mechanisms by which they do this are unknown. Retinal signals drive eye growth, and myopia usually results from an excessively long eye. The common variant most strongly associated with myopia is near the GJD2 gene, encoding connexin-36, which forms retinal gap junctions. Light-evoked responses of retinal neurons can be recorded noninvasively as the electroretinogram (ERG). We analyzed these responses from 186 adult twin volunteers who had been genotyped at this locus. Participants underwent detailed ERG recordings incorporating international standard stimuli as well as experimental protocols aiming to separate dark-adapted rod- and cone-driven responses. A mixed linear model was used to explore association between allelic dosage at the locus and international standard ERG parameters after adjustment for age, sex, and family structure. Significant associations were found for parameters of light-adapted, but not dark-adapted, responses. Further investigation of isolated rod- and cone-driven ERGs confirmed associations with cone-driven, but not rod-driven, a-wave amplitudes. Comparison with responses to similar experimental stimuli from a patient with a prior central retinal artery occlusion, and from two patients with selective loss of ON-bipolar cell signals, was consistent with the associated parameters being derived from signals from cone-driven OFF-bipolar cells. Analysis of single-cell transcriptome data revealed strongest GJD2 expression in cone photoreceptors; bipolar cell expression appeared strongest in OFF-bipolar cells and weakest in rod-driven ON-bipolar cells. Our findings support a potential role for altered signaling in cone-driven OFF pathways in myopia development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2119675119DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9173800PMC
May 2022

Personalized Model to Predict Keratoconus Progression From Demographic, Topographic, and Genetic Data.

Am J Ophthalmol 2022 08 23;240:321-329. Epub 2022 Apr 23.

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (J.-P.O.L., M.T.L., K.B., B.D.A., S.J.T., D.M.G.), London. Electronic address:

Purpose: To generate a prognostic model to predict keratoconus progression to corneal crosslinking (CXL).

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Methods: We recruited 5025 patients (9341 eyes) with early keratoconus between January 2011 and November 2020. Genetic data from 926 patients were available. We investigated both keratometry or CXL as end points for progression and used the Royston-Parmar method on the proportional hazards scale to generate a prognostic model. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) for each significant covariate, with explained variation and discrimination, and performed internal-external cross validation by geographic regions.

Results: After exclusions, model fitting comprised 8701 eyes, of which 3232 underwent CXL. For early keratoconus, CXL provided a more robust prognostic model than keratometric progression. The final model explained 33% of the variation in time to event: age HR (95% CI) 0.9 (0.90-0.91), maximum anterior keratometry 1.08 (1.07-1.09), and minimum corneal thickness 0.95 (0.93-0.96) as significant covariates. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with keratoconus (n=28) did not significantly contribute to the model. The predicted time-to-event curves closely followed the observed curves during internal-external validation. Differences in discrimination between geographic regions was low, suggesting the model maintained its predictive ability.

Conclusions: A prognostic model to predict keratoconus progression could aid patient empowerment, triage, and service provision. Age at presentation is the most significant predictor of progression risk. Candidate SNPs associated with keratoconus do not contribute to progression risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2022.04.004DOI Listing
August 2022

AlzEye: longitudinal record-level linkage of ophthalmic imaging and hospital admissions of 353 157 patients in London, UK.

BMJ Open 2022 03 16;12(3):e058552. Epub 2022 Mar 16.

Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK

Purpose: Retinal signatures of systemic disease ('oculomics') are increasingly being revealed through a combination of high-resolution ophthalmic imaging and sophisticated modelling strategies. Progress is currently limited not mainly by technical issues, but by the lack of large labelled datasets, a sine qua non for deep learning. Such data are derived from prospective epidemiological studies, in which retinal imaging is typically unimodal, cross-sectional, of modest number and relates to cohorts, which are not enriched with subpopulations of interest, such as those with systemic disease. We thus linked longitudinal multimodal retinal imaging from routinely collected National Health Service (NHS) data with systemic disease data from hospital admissions using a privacy-by-design third-party linkage approach.

Participants: Between 1 January 2008 and 1 April 2018, 353 157 participants aged 40 years or older, who attended Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, a tertiary ophthalmic institution incorporating a principal central site, four district hubs and five satellite clinics in and around London, UK serving a catchment population of approximately six million people.

Findings To Date: Among the 353 157 individuals, 186 651 had a total of 1 337 711 Hospital Episode Statistics admitted patient care episodes. Systemic diagnoses recorded at these episodes include 12 022 patients with myocardial infarction, 11 735 with all-cause stroke and 13 363 with all-cause dementia. A total of 6 261 931 retinal images of seven different modalities and across three manufacturers were acquired from 1 54 830 patients. The majority of retinal images were retinal photographs (n=1 874 175) followed by optical coherence tomography (n=1 567 358).

Future Plans: AlzEye combines the world's largest single institution retinal imaging database with nationally collected systemic data to create an exceptional large-scale, enriched cohort that reflects the diversity of the population served. First analyses will address cardiovascular diseases and dementia, with a view to identifying hidden retinal signatures that may lead to earlier detection and risk management of these life-threatening conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058552DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8928293PMC
March 2022

Posterior corneal vesicles are not associated with the genetic variants that cause posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy.

Acta Ophthalmol 2022 Feb 17. Epub 2022 Feb 17.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK.

Purpose: Posterior corneal vesicles (PCVs) have clinical features that are similar to posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy (PPCD). To help determine whether there is a shared genetic basis, we screened 38 individuals with PCVs for changes in the three genes identified as causative for PPCD.

Methods: We prospectively recruited patients for this study. We examined all individuals clinically, with their first-degree relatives when available. We used a combination of Sanger and exome sequencing to screen regulatory regions of OVOL2 and GRHL2, and the entire ZEB1 coding sequence.

Results: The median age at examination was 37.5 years (range 4.7-84.0 years), 20 (53%) were male and in 19 (50%) the PCVs were unilateral. Most individuals were discharged to optometric review, but five had follow-up for a median of 12 years (range 5-13 years) with no evidence of progression. In cases with unilateral PCVs, there was statistically significant evidence that the change in the affected eye was associated with a lower endothelial cell density (p = 0.0003), greater central corneal thickness (p = 0.0277) and a steeper mean keratometry (p = 0.0034), but not with a higher keratometric astigmatism or a reduced LogMAR visual acuity. First-degree relatives of 13 individuals were available for examination, and in 3 (23%), PCVs were identified. No possibly pathogenic variants were identified in the PPCD-associated genes screened.

Conclusion: We found no evidence that PCVs share the same genetic background as PPCD. In contrast to PPCD, we confirm that PCVs is a mild, non-progressive condition with no requirement for long-term review. However, subsequent cataract surgery can lead to corneal oedema.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aos.15114DOI Listing
February 2022

Collaborative Research and Development of a Novel, Patient-Centered Digital Platform (MyEyeSite) for Rare Inherited Retinal Disease Data: Acceptability and Feasibility Study.

JMIR Form Res 2022 Jan 31;6(1):e21341. Epub 2022 Jan 31.

NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, United Kingdom.

Background: Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are a leading cause of blindness in children and working age adults in the United Kingdom and other countries, with an appreciable socioeconomic impact. However, by definition, IRD data are individually rare, and as a result, this patient group has been underserved by research. Researchers need larger amounts of these rare data to make progress in this field, for example, through the development of gene therapies. The challenge has been how to find and make these data available to researchers in the most productive way. MyEyeSite is a research collaboration aiming to design and develop a digital platform (the MyEyeSite platform) for people with rare IRDs that will enable patients, doctors, and researchers to aggregate and share specialist eye health data. A crucial component of this platform is the MyEyeSite patient application, which will provide the means for patients with IRD to interact with the system and, in particular, to collate, manage, and share their personal specialist IRD data both for research and their own health care.

Objective: This study aims to test the acceptability and feasibility of the MyEyeSite platform in the target IRD population through a collaborative patient-centered study.

Methods: Qualitative data were generated through focus groups and workshops, and quantitative data were obtained through a survey of patients with IRD. Participants were recruited through clinics at Moorfields Eye Hospital National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre through their patient and public involvement databases.

Results: Our IRD focus group sample (n=50) highlighted the following themes: frustration with the current system regarding data sharing within the United Kingdom's NHS; positive expectations of the potential benefits of the MyEyeSite patient application, resulting from increased access to this specialized data; and concerns regarding data security, including potentially unethical use of the data outside the NHS. Of the surveyed 80 participants, 68 (85%) were motivated to have a more active role in their eye care and share their data for research purposes using a secure technology, such as a web application or mobile app.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that patients with IRD are highly motivated to be actively involved in managing their own data for research and their own eye care. It demonstrates the feasibility of involving patients with IRD in the detailed design of the MyEyeSite platform exemplar, with input from the patient with IRD workshops playing a key role in determining both the functionality and accessibility of the designs and prototypes. The development of a user-centered technological solution to the problem of rare health data has the potential to benefit not only the patient with IRD community but also others with rare diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/21341DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8845013PMC
January 2022

Enablers and Barriers to Deployment of Smartphone-Based Home Vision Monitoring in Clinical Practice Settings.

JAMA Ophthalmol 2022 Feb;140(2):153-160

NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, United Kingdom.

Importance: Telemedicine is accelerating the remote detection and monitoring of medical conditions, such as vision-threatening diseases. Meaningful deployment of smartphone apps for home vision monitoring should consider the barriers to patient uptake and engagement and address issues around digital exclusion in vulnerable patient populations.

Objective: To quantify the associations between patient characteristics and clinical measures with vision monitoring app uptake and engagement.

Design, Setting, And Participants: In this cohort and survey study, consecutive adult patients attending Moorfields Eye Hospital receiving intravitreal injections for retinal disease between May 2020 and February 2021 were included.

Exposures: Patients were offered the Home Vision Monitor (HVM) smartphone app to self-test their vision. A patient survey was conducted to capture their experience. App data, demographic characteristics, survey results, and clinical data from the electronic health record were analyzed via regression and machine learning.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Associations of patient uptake, compliance, and use rate measured in odds ratios (ORs).

Results: Of 417 included patients, 236 (56.6%) were female, and the mean (SD) age was 72.8 (12.8) years. A total of 258 patients (61.9%) were active users. Uptake was negatively associated with age (OR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.97-0.998; P = .02) and positively associated with both visual acuity in the better-seeing eye (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00-1.03; P = .01) and baseline number of intravitreal injections (OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00-1.02; P = .02). Of 258 active patients, 166 (64.3%) fulfilled the definition of compliance. Compliance was associated with patients diagnosed with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (OR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.07-3.53; P = .002), White British ethnicity (OR, 1.69; 95% CI, 0.96-3.01; P = .02), and visual acuity in the better-seeing eye at baseline (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.04; P = .04). Use rate was higher with increasing levels of comfort with use of modern technologies (β = 0.031; 95% CI, 0.007-0.055; P = .02). A total of 119 patients (98.4%) found the app either easy or very easy to use, while 96 (82.1%) experienced increased reassurance from using the app.

Conclusions And Relevance: This evaluation of home vision monitoring for patients with common vision-threatening disease within a clinical practice setting revealed demographic, clinical, and patient-related factors associated with patient uptake and engagement. These insights inform targeted interventions to address risks of digital exclusion with smartphone-based medical devices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2021.5269DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8678899PMC
February 2022

Machine Learning Algorithms to Detect Subclinical Keratoconus: Systematic Review.

JMIR Med Inform 2021 Dec 13;9(12):e27363. Epub 2021 Dec 13.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Background: Keratoconus is a disorder characterized by progressive thinning and distortion of the cornea. If detected at an early stage, corneal collagen cross-linking can prevent disease progression and further visual loss. Although advanced forms are easily detected, reliable identification of subclinical disease can be problematic. Several different machine learning algorithms have been used to improve the detection of subclinical keratoconus based on the analysis of multiple types of clinical measures, such as corneal imaging, aberrometry, or biomechanical measurements.

Objective: The aim of this study is to survey and critically evaluate the literature on the algorithmic detection of subclinical keratoconus and equivalent definitions.

Methods: For this systematic review, we performed a structured search of the following databases: MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science and Cochrane Library from January 1, 2010, to October 31, 2020. We included all full-text studies that have used algorithms for the detection of subclinical keratoconus and excluded studies that did not perform validation. This systematic review followed the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) recommendations.

Results: We compared the measured parameters and the design of the machine learning algorithms reported in 26 papers that met the inclusion criteria. All salient information required for detailed comparison, including diagnostic criteria, demographic data, sample size, acquisition system, validation details, parameter inputs, machine learning algorithm, and key results are reported in this study.

Conclusions: Machine learning has the potential to improve the detection of subclinical keratoconus or early keratoconus in routine ophthalmic practice. Currently, there is no consensus regarding the corneal parameters that should be included for assessment and the optimal design for the machine learning algorithm. We have identified avenues for further research to improve early detection and stratification of patients for early treatment to prevent disease progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/27363DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8713097PMC
December 2021

100,000 Genomes Pilot on Rare-Disease Diagnosis in Health Care - Preliminary Report.

N Engl J Med 2021 11;385(20):1868-1880

From Genomics England (D.S., K.R.S., A.M., E.A.T., E.M.M., A.T., G.C., K.I., L.M., M. Wielscher, A.N., M. Bale, E.B., C.B., H.B., M. Bleda, A. Devereau, D.H., E. Haraldsdottir, Z.H., D.K., C. Patch, D.P., A.M., R. Sultana, M.R., A.L.T.T., C. Tregidgo, C. Turnbull, M. Welland, S. Wood, C.S., E.W., S.L., R.E.F., L.C.D., O.N., I.U.S.L., C.F.W., J.C., R.H.S., T.F., A.R., M.C.), the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London (D.S., K.R.S., V.C., A.T., L.M., M.R.B., D.K., S. Wood, P.C., J.O.J., T.F., M.C.), University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology (V.C., G.A., M.M., A.T.M., S. Malka, N.P., P.Y.-W.-M., A.R.W.), UCL Genetics Institute (V.C., N.W.W.), GOSgene (H.J.W.), Genetics and Genomic Medicine Programme (L.V., M.R., M.D., L.C., P. Beales, M.B.-G.), National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) (M.R., S. Grunewald, S.C.-L., F.M., C. Pilkington, L.R.W., L.C., P. Beales, M.B.-G.), Infection, Immunity, and Inflammation Research and Teaching Department (P.A., L.R.W.), Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine (N.T.), and Mitochondrial Research Group (S. Rahman), UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, UCL Ear Institute (L.V.), the Department of Renal Medicine (D. Bockenhauer), and Institute of Cardiovascular Science (P.E.), UCL, Moorfields Eye Hospital National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust (V.C., G.A., M.M., A.T.M., S. Malka, N.P., A.R.W.), the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (J.V., E.O., J.Y., K. Newland, H.R.M., J.P., N.W.W., H.H.), the Metabolic Unit (L.A., S. Grunewald, S. Rahman), London Centre for Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes (M.D.), and the Department of Gastroenterology (N.T.), Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (L.V., D. Bockenhauer, A. Broomfield, M.A.C., T. Lam, E.F., V.G., S.C.-L., F.M., C. Pilkington, R. Quinlivan, C.W., L.R.W., A. Worth, L.C., P. Beales, M.B.-G., R.H.S.), the Clinical Genetics Department (M.R., T.B., C. Compton, C.D., E. Haque, L.I., D.J., S. Mohammed, L.R., S. Rose, D.R., G.S., A.C.S., F.F., M.I.) and St. John's Institute of Dermatology (H.F., R. Sarkany), Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research (C. Turnbull), Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery, and Palliative Care (T.B.), Division of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (M.A.S.), and Division of Medical and Molecular Genetics (M.I.), King's College London, NIHR BRC at Moorfields Eye Hospital (P.Y.-W.-M.), NHS England and NHS Improvement, Skipton House (V.D., A. Douglas, S. Hill), and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Hammersmith Hospital (K. Naresh), London, Open Targets and European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton (E.M.M.), the Division of Evolution and Genomic Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine, and Health, University of Manchester (J.M.E., S.B., J.C.-S., S.D., G.H., H.B.T., R.T.O., G. Black, W.N.), and the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, St. Mary's Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (J.M.E., Z.H., S.B., J.C.-S., S.D., G.H., G. Black, W.N.), Manchester, the Department of Genetic and Genomic Medicine, Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff University, Cardiff (H.J.W.), the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (T.R., W.W., R.H., P.F.C.), the Medical Research Council (MRC) Mitochondrial Biology Unit (T.R., W.W., P.Y.-W.-M., P.F.C.), the Department of Paediatrics (T.R.), the Department of Haematology (K.S., C. Penkett, S. Gräf, R.M., W.H.O., A.R.), the School of Clinical Medicine (K.R., E.L., R.A.F., K.P., F.L.R.), the Department of Medicine (S. Gräf), and Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Department of Clinical Neurosciences (P.Y.-W.-M.), University of Cambridge, NIHR BioResource, Cambridge University Hospitals (K.S., S.A., R.J., C. Penkett, E.D., S. Gräf, R.M., M.K., J.R.B., P.F.C., W.H.O., F.L.R.), and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (G.F., P.T., O.S.-B., S. Halsall, K.P., A. Wagner, S.G.M., N.B., M.K.), Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science and NIHR Cambridge BRC (M.G.), Congenica (A.H., H.S.), Illumina Cambridge (A. Wolejko, B.H., G. Burns, S. Hunter, R.J.G., S.J.H., D. Bentley), NHS Blood and Transplant (W.H.O.), and Wellcome Sanger Institute (W.H.O.), Cambridge, the Health Economics Research Centre (J. Buchanan, S. Wordsworth) and the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (C. Camps, J.C.T.), University of Oxford, NIHR Oxford BRC (J. Buchanan, S. Wordsworth, J.D., C. Crichton, J.W., K.W., C. Camps, S.P., N.B.A.R., A.S., J.T., J.C.T.), the Oxford Centre for Genomic Medicine (A. de Burca, A.H.N.), and the Departments of Haematology (N.B.A.R.) and Neurology (A.S.), Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Genetics Laboratories, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Churchill Hospital (C. Campbell, K.G., T. Lester, J.T.), the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (N.K., N.B.A.R., A.O.M.W.) and the Oxford Epilepsy Research Group (A.S.), Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (A.H.N.), University of Oxford, and the Department of Clinical Immunology (S.P.), John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Peninsula Clinical Genetics Service, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (E.B.), and the University of Exeter Medical School (E.B., C.F.W.), Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (S.E.), Exeter, Newcastle Eye Centre, Royal Victoria Infirmary (A.C.B.), the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, International Centre for Life (V.S., P. Brennan), Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University (G.S.G., R.H., A.M.S., D.M.T., R. Quinton, R.M., R.W.T., J.A.S.), Highly Specialised Mitochondrial Service (G.S.G., A.M.S., D.M.T., R.M., R.W.T.) and Northern Genetics Service (J. Burn), Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (J.A.S.), and NIHR Newcastle BRC (G.S.G., D.M.T., J.A.S.), Newcastle upon Tyne, the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham (C. Palles), and Birmingham Women's Hospital (D.M.), Birmingham, the Genomic Informatics Group (E.G.S.), University Hospital Southampton (I.K.T.), and the University of Southampton (I.K.T.), Southampton, Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool (A. Douglas), the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol (A.D.M.), and Yorkshire and Humber, Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield (G.W.) - all in the United Kingdom; Fabric Genomics, Oakland (M. Babcock, M.G.R.), and the Ophthalmology Department, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco (A.T.M.) - both in California; the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, Farmington, CT (P.N.R.); and the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis (M.H.).

Background: The U.K. 100,000 Genomes Project is in the process of investigating the role of genome sequencing in patients with undiagnosed rare diseases after usual care and the alignment of this research with health care implementation in the U.K. National Health Service. Other parts of this project focus on patients with cancer and infection.

Methods: We conducted a pilot study involving 4660 participants from 2183 families, among whom 161 disorders covering a broad spectrum of rare diseases were present. We collected data on clinical features with the use of Human Phenotype Ontology terms, undertook genome sequencing, applied automated variant prioritization on the basis of applied virtual gene panels and phenotypes, and identified novel pathogenic variants through research analysis.

Results: Diagnostic yields varied among family structures and were highest in family trios (both parents and a proband) and families with larger pedigrees. Diagnostic yields were much higher for disorders likely to have a monogenic cause (35%) than for disorders likely to have a complex cause (11%). Diagnostic yields for intellectual disability, hearing disorders, and vision disorders ranged from 40 to 55%. We made genetic diagnoses in 25% of the probands. A total of 14% of the diagnoses were made by means of the combination of research and automated approaches, which was critical for cases in which we found etiologic noncoding, structural, and mitochondrial genome variants and coding variants poorly covered by exome sequencing. Cohortwide burden testing across 57,000 genomes enabled the discovery of three new disease genes and 19 new associations. Of the genetic diagnoses that we made, 25% had immediate ramifications for clinical decision making for the patients or their relatives.

Conclusions: Our pilot study of genome sequencing in a national health care system showed an increase in diagnostic yield across a range of rare diseases. (Funded by the National Institute for Health Research and others.).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2035790DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7613219PMC
November 2021

Pathogenic variants in the gene cause isolated autosomal dominant congenital posterior polar cataracts.

Ophthalmic Genet 2022 04 8;43(2):218-223. Epub 2021 Nov 8.

Department of Genetics, Ucl Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Congenital cataracts are the most common cause of visual impairment worldwide. Inherited cataract is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous disease. Here we report disease-causing variants in a novel gene, , causing autosomal dominant posterior polar cataract. Variants in this gene are known to cause autosomal recessive congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).

Methods: Using whole-exome sequencing (WES), we have identified disease-causing sequence variants in two families of British and Irish origin, and in two isolated cases of Asian-Indian and British origin. Bioinformatics analysis confirmed these variants as rare with damaging pathogenicity scores. Segregation was tested within the families using direct Sanger sequencing.

Results: A nonsense variant NM_000500.9 c.955 C > T; p.Q319* was identified in in two families with posterior polar cataract and in an isolated case with unspecified congenital cataract phenotype. This is the same variant previously linked to CAH and identified as Q318* in the literature. We have also identified a rare missense variant NM_000500.9 c.770 T > C; p.M257T in an isolated case with unspecified congenital cataract phenotype.

Conclusion: This is the first report of separate sequence variants in associated with congenital cataract. Our findings extend the genetic basis for congenital cataract and add to the phenotypic spectrum of variants and particularly the CAH associated Q318* variant. CYP21A2 has a significant role in mineralo- and gluco-corticoid biosynthesis. These findings suggest that CYP21A2 may be important for extra-adrenal biosynthesis of aldosterone and cortisol in the eye lens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13816810.2021.1998556DOI Listing
April 2022

Clinically relevant deep learning for detection and quantification of geographic atrophy from optical coherence tomography: a model development and external validation study.

Lancet Digit Health 2021 10 8;3(10):e665-e675. Epub 2021 Sep 8.

NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK. Electronic address:

Background: Geographic atrophy is a major vision-threatening manifestation of age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness globally. Geographic atrophy has no proven treatment or method for easy detection. Rapid, reliable, and objective detection and quantification of geographic atrophy from optical coherence tomography (OCT) retinal scans is necessary for disease monitoring, prognostic research, and to serve as clinical endpoints for therapy development. To this end, we aimed to develop and validate a fully automated method to detect and quantify geographic atrophy from OCT.

Methods: We did a deep-learning model development and external validation study on OCT retinal scans at Moorfields Eye Hospital Reading Centre and Clinical AI Hub (London, UK). A modified U-Net architecture was used to develop four distinct deep-learning models for segmentation of geographic atrophy and its constituent retinal features from OCT scans acquired with Heidelberg Spectralis. A manually segmented clinical dataset for model development comprised 5049 B-scans from 984 OCT volumes selected randomly from 399 eyes of 200 patients with geographic atrophy secondary to age-related macular degeneration, enrolled in a prospective, multicentre, phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of geographic atrophy (FILLY study). Performance was externally validated on an independently recruited dataset from patients receiving routine care at Moorfields Eye Hospital (London, UK). The primary outcome was segmentation and classification agreement between deep-learning model geographic atrophy prediction and consensus of two independent expert graders on the external validation dataset.

Findings: The external validation cohort included 884 B-scans from 192 OCT volumes taken from 192 eyes of 110 patients as part of real-life clinical care at Moorfields Eye Hospital between Jan 1, 2016, and Dec, 31, 2019 (mean age 78·3 years [SD 11·1], 58 [53%] women). The resultant geographic atrophy deep-learning model produced predictions similar to consensus human specialist grading on the external validation dataset (median Dice similarity coefficient [DSC] 0·96 [IQR 0·10]; intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] 0·93) and outperformed agreement between human graders (DSC 0·80 [0·28]; ICC 0·79). Similarly, the three independent feature-specific deep-learning models could accurately segment each of the three constituent features of geographic atrophy: retinal pigment epithelium loss (median DSC 0·95 [IQR 0·15]), overlying photoreceptor degeneration (0·96 [0·12]), and hypertransmission (0·97 [0·07]) in the external validation dataset versus consensus grading.

Interpretation: We present a fully developed and validated deep-learning composite model for segmentation of geographic atrophy and its subtypes that achieves performance at a similar level to manual specialist assessment. Fully automated analysis of retinal OCT from routine clinical practice could provide a promising horizon for diagnosis and prognosis in both research and real-life patient care, following further clinical validation FUNDING: Apellis Pharmaceuticals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2589-7500(21)00134-5DOI Listing
October 2021

Pathogenic variants cause a developmental ocular phenotype recapitulated in a mutant mouse model.

Brain Commun 2021 20;3(3):fcab162. Epub 2021 Jul 20.

Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital of Nimes, Nimes, France.

Pathogenic variants cause a rare autosomal dominant neurodevelopmental disorder referred to as the Bosch-Boonstra-Schaaf Optic Atrophy Syndrome. Although visual loss is a prominent feature seen in affected individuals, the molecular and cellular mechanisms contributing to visual impairment are still poorly characterized. We conducted a deep phenotyping study on a cohort of 22 individuals carrying pathogenic variants to document the neurodevelopmental and ophthalmological manifestations, in particular the structural and functional changes within the retina and the optic nerve, which have not been detailed previously. The visual impairment became apparent in early childhood with small and/or tilted hypoplastic optic nerves observed in 10 cases. High-resolution optical coherence tomography imaging confirmed significant loss of retinal ganglion cells with thinning of the ganglion cell layer, consistent with electrophysiological evidence of retinal ganglion cells dysfunction. Interestingly, for those individuals with available longitudinal ophthalmological data, there was no significant deterioration in visual function during the period of follow-up. Diffusion tensor imaging tractography studies showed defective connections and disorganization of the extracortical visual pathways. To further investigate how pathogenic variants impact on retinal and optic nerve development, we took advantage of an mutant mouse disease model. Abnormal retinogenesis in early stages of development was observed in mutant mice with decreased retinal ganglion cell density and disruption of retinal ganglion cell axonal guidance from the neural retina into the optic stalk, accounting for the development of optic nerve hypoplasia. The mutant mice showed significantly reduced visual acuity based on electrophysiological parameters with marked conduction delay and decreased amplitude of the recordings in the superficial layers of the visual cortex. The clinical observations in our study cohort, supported by the mouse data, suggest an early neurodevelopmental origin for the retinal and optic nerve head defects caused by pathogenic variants, resulting in congenital vision loss that seems to be non-progressive. We propose as a major gene that orchestrates early retinal and optic nerve head development, playing a key role in the maturation of the visual system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcab162DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8397830PMC
July 2021

Variants in PAX6, PITX3 and HSF4 causing autosomal dominant congenital cataracts.

Eye (Lond) 2022 Aug 3;36(8):1694-1701. Epub 2021 Aug 3.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Lens development is orchestrated by transcription factors. Disease-causing variants in transcription factors and their developmental target genes are associated with congenital cataracts and other eye anomalies.

Methods: Using whole exome sequencing, we identified disease-causing variants in two large British families and one isolated case with autosomal dominant congenital cataract. Bioinformatics analysis confirmed these disease-causing mutations as rare or novel variants, with a moderate to damaging pathogenicity score, with testing for segregation within the families using direct Sanger sequencing.

Results: Family A had a missense variant (c.184 G>A; p.V62M) in PAX6 and affected individuals presented with nuclear cataract. Family B had a frameshift variant (c.470-477dup; p.A160R*) in PITX3 that was also associated with nuclear cataract. A recurrent missense variant in HSF4 (c.341 T>C; p.L114P) was associated with congenital cataract in a single isolated case.

Conclusions: We have therefore identified novel variants in PAX6 and PITX3 that cause autosomal dominant congenital cataract.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41433-021-01711-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9307513PMC
August 2022

Predicting sex from retinal fundus photographs using automated deep learning.

Sci Rep 2021 05 13;11(1):10286. Epub 2021 May 13.

NIHR Biomedical Research Center at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK.

Deep learning may transform health care, but model development has largely been dependent on availability of advanced technical expertise. Herein we present the development of a deep learning model by clinicians without coding, which predicts reported sex from retinal fundus photographs. A model was trained on 84,743 retinal fundus photos from the UK Biobank dataset. External validation was performed on 252 fundus photos from a tertiary ophthalmic referral center. For internal validation, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) of the code free deep learning (CFDL) model was 0.93. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and accuracy (ACC) were 88.8%, 83.6%, 87.3% and 86.5%, and for external validation were 83.9%, 72.2%, 78.2% and 78.6% respectively. Clinicians are currently unaware of distinct retinal feature variations between males and females, highlighting the importance of model explainability for this task. The model performed significantly worse when foveal pathology was present in the external validation dataset, ACC: 69.4%, compared to 85.4% in healthy eyes, suggesting the fovea is a salient region for model performance OR (95% CI): 0.36 (0.19, 0.70) p = 0.0022. Automated machine learning (AutoML) may enable clinician-driven automated discovery of novel insights and disease biomarkers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89743-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8119673PMC
May 2021

Non-Penetrance for Ocular Phenotype in Two Individuals Carrying Heterozygous Loss-of-Function Alleles.

Genes (Basel) 2021 04 30;12(5). Epub 2021 Apr 30.

Department of Paediatrics and Inherited Metabolic Disorders, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University and General University Hospital in Prague, Ke Karlovu 2, 128 08 Prague, Czech Republic.

loss-of-function (LoF) alleles are known to cause a rare autosomal dominant disorder-posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy type 3 (PPCD3). To date, 50 pathogenic LoF variants have been identified as disease-causing and familial studies have indicated that the PPCD3 phenotype is penetrant in approximately 95% of carriers. In this study, we interrogated in-house exomes ( = 3616) and genomes ( = 88) for the presence of putative heterozygous LoF variants in . Next, we performed detailed phenotyping in a father and his son who carried a novel LoF c.1279C>T; p.(Glu427*) variant in (NM_030751.6) absent from the gnomAD v.2.1.1 dataset. Ocular examination of the two subjects did not show any abnormalities characteristic of PPCD3. GnomAD ( = 141,456 subjects) was also interrogated for LoF variants, notably 8 distinct heterozygous changes presumed to lead to haploinsufficiency, not reported to be associated with PPCD3, have been identified. The NM_030751.6 transcript has a pLI score ≥ 0.99, indicating extreme intolerance to haploinsufficiency. In conclusion, LoF variants are present in a general population at an extremely low frequency. As PPCD3 can be asymptomatic, the true penetrance of LoF variants remains currently unknown but is likely to be lower than estimated by the familial led approaches adopted to date.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes12050677DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8146820PMC
April 2021

Prediction of causative genes in inherited retinal disorder from fundus photography and autofluorescence imaging using deep learning techniques.

Br J Ophthalmol 2021 09 20;105(9):1272-1279. Epub 2021 Apr 20.

Laboratory of Visual Physiology, Division of Vision Research, National Institute of Sensory Organs, National Hospital Organization Tokyo Medical Center, Tokyo, Japan

Background/aims: To investigate the utility of a data-driven deep learning approach in patients with inherited retinal disorder (IRD) and to predict the causative genes based on fundus photography and fundus autofluorescence (FAF) imaging.

Methods: Clinical and genetic data from 1302 subjects from 729 genetically confirmed families with IRD registered with the Japan Eye Genetics Consortium were reviewed. Three categories of genetic diagnosis were selected, based on the high prevalence of their causative genes: Stargardt disease (), retinitis pigmentosa () and occult macular dystrophy (). Fundus photographs and FAF images were cropped in a standardised manner with a macro algorithm. Images for training/testing were selected using a randomised, fourfold cross-validation method. The application program interface was established to reach the learning accuracy of concordance (target: >80%) between the genetic diagnosis and the machine diagnosis (, , and normal).

Results: A total of 417 images from 156 Japanese subjects were examined, including 115 genetically confirmed patients caused by the three prevalent causative genes and 41 normal subjects. The mean overall test accuracy for fundus photographs and FAF images was 88.2% and 81.3%, respectively. The mean overall sensitivity/specificity values for fundus photographs and FAF images were 88.3%/97.4% and 81.8%/95.5%, respectively.

Conclusion: A novel application of deep neural networks in the prediction of the causative IRD genes from fundus photographs and FAF, with a high prediction accuracy of over 80%, was highlighted. These achievements will extensively promote the quality of medical care by facilitating early diagnosis, especially by non-specialists, access to care, reducing the cost of referrals, and preventing unnecessary clinical and genetic testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjophthalmol-2020-318544DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8380883PMC
September 2021

Panel-based genetic testing for inherited retinal disease screening 176 genes.

Mol Genet Genomic Med 2021 12 22;9(12):e1663. Epub 2021 Mar 22.

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.

Background: This case series reports the performance of a next-generation sequencing (NGS) panel of 176 retinal genes (NGS 176) in patients with inherited retinal disease (IRD).

Methods: Subjects are patients who underwent genetic testing between 1 August 2016 and 1 January 2018 at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK. Panel-based genetic testing was performed unless a specific gene (e.g., RS1) or small group of genes (e.g., ABCA4, PRPH2) were suspected. If a novel variant was identified, a further comment on their predicted pathogenicity and evolutionary conservation was offered and segregation studies performed. The main outcome measure is the likelihood of obtaining a genetic diagnosis using NGS 176.

Results: 488 patients were included. A molecular diagnosis was obtained for 59.4% of patients. Younger patients were more likely to receive a molecular diagnosis; with 92% of children under the age of 6 years receiving a conclusive result. There was a change in their initially assigned inheritance pattern in 8.4% of patients following genetic testing. Selected IRD diagnoses (e.g., achromatopsia, congenital stationary night blindness) were associated with high diagnostic yields.

Conclusion: This study confirms that NGS 176 is a useful first-tier genetic test for most IRD patients. Age and initial clinical diagnosis were strongly associated with diagnostic yield.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mgg3.1663DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8683638PMC
December 2021

KCNV2-Associated Retinopathy: Detailed Retinal Phenotype and Structural Endpoints-KCNV2 Study Group Report 2.

Am J Ophthalmol 2021 10 15;230:1-11. Epub 2021 Mar 15.

Department of Ophthalmology, Hadassah Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.

Purpose: To describe the detailed retinal phenotype of KCNV2-associated retinopathy.

Study Design: Multicenter international retrospective case series.

Methods: Review of retinal imaging including fundus autofluorescence (FAF) and optical coherence tomography (OCT), including qualitative and quantitative analyses.

Results: Three distinct macular FAF features were identified: (1) centrally increased signal (n = 35, 41.7%), (2) decreased autofluorescence (n = 27, 31.1%), and (3) ring of increased signal (n = 37, 44.0%). Five distinct FAF groups were identified based on combinations of those features, with 23.5% of patients changing the FAF group over a mean (range) follow-up of 5.9 years (1.9-13.1 years). Qualitative assessment was performed by grading OCT into 5 grades: (1) continuous ellipsoid zone (EZ) (20.5%); (2) EZ disruption (26.1%); (3) EZ absence, without optical gap and with preserved retinal pigment epithelium complex (21.6%); (4) loss of EZ and a hyporeflective zone at the foveola (6.8%); and (5) outer retina and retinal pigment epithelium complex loss (25.0%). Eighty-six patients had scans available from both eyes, with 83 (96.5%) having the same grade in both eyes, and 36.1% changed OCT grade over a mean follow-up of 5.5 years. The annual rate of outer nuclear layer thickness change was similar for right and left eyes.

Conclusions: KCNV2-associated retinopathy is a slowly progressive disease with early retinal changes, which are predominantly symmetric between eyes. The identification of a single OCT or FAF measurement as an endpoint to determine progression that applies to all patients may be challenging, although outer nuclear layer thickness is a potential biomarker. Findings suggest a potential window for intervention until 40 years of age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2021.03.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8710866PMC
October 2021

Extending the phenotypic spectrum of PRPF8, PRPH2, RP1 and RPGR, and the genotypic spectrum of early-onset severe retinal dystrophy.

Orphanet J Rare Dis 2021 03 12;16(1):128. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, 11-43 Bath Street, London, EC1V 9EL, UK.

Purpose: To present the detailed retinal phenotype of patients with Leber Congenital Amaurosis/Early-Onset Severe Retinal Dystrophy (LCA/EOSRD) caused by sequence variants in four genes, either not (n = 1) or very rarely (n = 3) previously associated with the disease.

Methods: Retrospective case series of LCA/EOSRD from four pedigrees. Chart review of clinical notes, multimodal retinal imaging, electrophysiology, and molecular genetic testing at a single tertiary referral center (Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK).

Results: The mean age of presentation was 3 months of age, with disease onset in the first year of life in all cases. Molecular genetic testing revealed the following disease-causing variants: PRPF8 (heterozygous c.5804G > A), PRPH2 (homozygous c.620_627delinsTA, novel variant), RP1 (homozygous c.4147_4151delGGATT, novel variant) and RPGR (heterozygous c.1894_1897delGACA). PRPF8, PRPH2, and RP1 variants have very rarely been reported, either as unique cases or case reports, with limited clinical data presented. RPGR variants have not previously been associated with LCA/EOSRD. Clinical history and detailed retinal imaging are presented.

Conclusions: The reported cases extend the phenotypic spectrum of PRPF8-, PRPH2-, RP1-, and RPGR-associated disease, and the genotypic spectrum of LCA/EOSRD. The study highlights the importance of retinal and functional phenotyping, and the importance of specific genetic diagnosis to potential future therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13023-021-01759-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7953775PMC
March 2021

Identification of genetic factors influencing metabolic dysregulation and retinal support for MacTel, a retinal disorder.

Commun Biol 2021 03 2;4(1):274. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Population Health and Immunity Division, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, VIC, Australia.

Macular Telangiectasia Type 2 (MacTel) is a rare degenerative retinal disease with complex genetic architecture. We performed a genome-wide association study on 1,067 MacTel patients and 3,799 controls, which identified eight novel genome-wide significant loci (p < 5 × 10), and confirmed all three previously reported loci. Using MAGMA, eQTL and transcriptome-wide association analysis, we prioritised 48 genes implicated in serine-glycine biosynthesis, metabolite transport, and retinal vasculature and thickness. Mendelian randomization indicated a likely causative role of serine (FDR = 3.9 × 10) and glycine depletion (FDR = 0.006) as well as alanine abundance (FDR = 0.009). Polygenic risk scoring achieved an accuracy of 0.74 and was associated in UKBiobank with retinal damage (p = 0.009). This represents the largest genetic study on MacTel to date and further highlights genetically-induced systemic and tissue-specific metabolic dysregulation in MacTel patients, which impinges on retinal health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-01788-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7925591PMC
March 2021

A multi-ethnic genome-wide association study implicates collagen matrix integrity and cell differentiation pathways in keratoconus.

Commun Biol 2021 03 1;4(1):266. Epub 2021 Mar 1.

Institute for Translational Genomics and Population Sciences, The Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation (formerly Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; Department of Pediatrics, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA, USA.

Keratoconus is characterised by reduced rigidity of the cornea with distortion and focal thinning that causes blurred vision, however, the pathogenetic mechanisms are unknown. It can lead to severe visual morbidity in children and young adults and is a common indication for corneal transplantation worldwide. Here we report the first large scale genome-wide association study of keratoconus including 4,669 cases and 116,547 controls. We have identified significant association with 36 genomic loci that, for the first time, implicate both dysregulation of corneal collagen matrix integrity and cell differentiation pathways as primary disease-causing mechanisms. The results also suggest pleiotropy, with some disease mechanisms shared with other corneal diseases, such as Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy. The common variants associated with keratoconus explain 12.5% of the genetic variance, which shows potential for the future development of a diagnostic test to detect susceptibility to disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-01784-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7921564PMC
March 2021

KCNV2-Associated Retinopathy: Genetics, Electrophysiology, and Clinical Course-KCNV2 Study Group Report 1.

Am J Ophthalmol 2021 05 11;225:95-107. Epub 2020 Dec 11.

Department of Ophthalmology, Hadassah Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.

Purpose: To investigate genetics, electrophysiology, and clinical course of KCNV2-associated retinopathy in a cohort of children and adults.

Study Design: This was a multicenter international clinical cohort study.

Methods: Review of clinical notes and molecular genetic testing. Full-field electroretinography (ERG) recordings, incorporating the international standards, were reviewed and quantified and compared with age and recordings from control subjects.

Results: In total, 230 disease-associated alleles were identified from 117 patients, corresponding to 75 different KCNV2 variants, with 28 being novel. The mean age of onset was 3.9 years old. All patients were symptomatic before 12 years of age (range, 0-11 years). Decreased visual acuity was present in all patients, and 4 other symptoms were common: reduced color vision (78.6%), photophobia (53.5%), nyctalopia (43.6%), and nystagmus (38.6%). After a mean follow-up of 8.4 years, the mean best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA ± SD) decreased from 0.81 ± 0.27 to 0.90 ± 0.31 logarithm of minimal angle of resolution. Full-field ERGs showed pathognomonic waveform features. Quantitative assessment revealed a wide range of ERG amplitudes and peak times, with a mean rate of age-associated reduction indistinguishable from the control group. Mean amplitude reductions for the dark-adapted 0.01 ERG, dark-adapted 10 ERG a-wave, and LA 3.0 30 Hz and LA3 ERG b-waves were 55%, 21%, 48%, and 74%, respectively compared with control values. Peak times showed stability across 6 decades.

Conclusion: In KCNV2-associated retinopathy, full-field ERGs are diagnostic and consistent with largely stable peripheral retinal dysfunction. Report 1 highlights the severity of the clinical phenotype and established a large cohort of patients, emphasizing the unmet need for trials of novel therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2020.11.022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8186730PMC
May 2021

The genetic landscape of crystallins in congenital cataract.

Orphanet J Rare Dis 2020 11 26;15(1):333. Epub 2020 Nov 26.

Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, 11-43 Bath Street, London, EC1V 9EL, UK.

Background: The crystalline lens is mainly composed of a large family of soluble proteins called the crystallins, which are responsible for its development, growth, transparency and refractive index. Disease-causing sequence variants in the crystallins are responsible for nearly 50% of all non-syndromic inherited congenital cataracts, as well as causing cataract associated with other diseases, including myopathies. To date, more than 300 crystallin sequence variants causing cataract have been identified.

Methods: Here we aimed to identify the genetic basis of disease in five multi-generation British families and five sporadic cases with autosomal dominant congenital cataract using whole exome sequencing, with identified variants validated using Sanger sequencing. Following bioinformatics analysis, rare or novel variants with a moderate to damaging pathogenicity score, were filtered out and tested for segregation within the families.

Results: We have identified 10 different heterozygous crystallin variants. Five recurrent variants were found: family-A, with a missense variant (c.145C>T; p.R49C) in CRYAA associated with nuclear cataract; family-B, with a deletion in CRYBA1 (c.272delGAG; p.G91del) associated with nuclear cataract; and family-C, with a truncating variant in CRYGD (c.470G>A; W157*) causing a lamellar phenotype; individuals I and J had variants in CRYGC (c.13A>C; T5P) and in CRYGD (c.418C>T; R140*) causing unspecified congenital cataract and nuclear cataract, respectively. Five novel disease-causing variants were also identified: family D harboured a variant in CRYGC (c.179delG; R60Qfs*) responsible for a nuclear phenotype; family E, harboured a variant in CRYBB1 (c.656G>A; W219*) associated with lamellar cataract; individual F had a variant in CRYGD (c.392G>A; W131*) associated with nuclear cataract; and individuals G and H had variants in CRYAA (c.454delGCC; A152del) and in CRYBB1 (c.618C>A; Y206*) respectively, associated with unspecified congenital cataract. All novel variants were predicted to be pathogenic and to be moderately or highly damaging.

Conclusions: We report five novel variants and five known variants. Some are rare variants that have been reported previously in small ethnic groups but here we extend this to the wider population and record a broader phenotypic spectrum for these variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13023-020-01613-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7691105PMC
November 2020

Autosomal Recessive Bestrophinopathy: Clinical Features, Natural History, and Genetic Findings in Preparation for Clinical Trials.

Ophthalmology 2021 05 8;128(5):706-718. Epub 2020 Oct 8.

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Purpose: To investigate the clinical course, genetic findings, and phenotypic spectrum of autosomal recessive bestrophinopathy (ARB) in a large cohort of children and adults.

Design: Retrospective case series.

Participants: Patients with a detailed clinical phenotype consistent with ARB, biallelic likely disease-causing sequence variants in the BEST1 gene, or both identified at a single tertiary referral center.

Methods: Review of case notes, retinal imaging (color fundus photography, fundus autofluorescence, OCT), electrophysiologic assessment, and molecular genetic testing.

Main Outcome Measures: Visual acuity (VA), retinal imaging, and electrophysiologic changes over time.

Results: Fifty-six eyes of 28 unrelated patients were included. Compound heterozygous variants were detected in most patients (19/27), with 6 alleles recurring in apparently unrelated individuals, the most common of which was c.422G→A, p.(Arg141His; n = 4 patients). Mean presenting VA was 0.52 ± 0.36 logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution (logMAR), and final VA was 0.81 ± 0.75 logMAR (P = 0.06). The mean rate of change in VA was 0.05 ± 0.13 logMAR/year. A significant change in VA was detected in patients with a follow-up of 5 years or more (n = 18) compared with patients with a follow-up of 5 years or less (n = 10; P = 0.001). Presence of subretinal fluid and vitelliform material were early findings in most patients, and this did not change substantially over time. A reduction in central retinal thickness was detected in most eyes (80.4%) over the course of follow-up. Many patients (10/26) showed evidence of generalized rod and cone system dysfunction. These patients were older (P < 0.001) and had worse VA (P = 0.02) than those with normal full-field electroretinography results.

Conclusions: Although patients with ARB are presumed to have no functioning bestrophin channels, significant phenotypic heterogeneity is evident. The clinical course is characterized by a progressive loss of vision with a slow rate of decline, providing a wide therapeutic window for anticipated future treatment strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2020.10.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8062850PMC
May 2021

Structural Variants Create New Topological-Associated Domains and Ectopic Retinal Enhancer-Gene Contact in Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Am J Hum Genet 2020 11 5;107(5):802-814. Epub 2020 Oct 5.

University of Cape Town/MRC Genomic and Precision Medicine Research Unit, Division of Human Genetics, Department of Pathology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, 7935, South Africa.

The cause of autosomal-dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP), which leads to loss of vision and blindness, was investigated in families lacking a molecular diagnosis. A refined locus for adRP on Chr17q22 (RP17) was delineated through genotyping and genome sequencing, leading to the identification of structural variants (SVs) that segregate with disease. Eight different complex SVs were characterized in 22 adRP-affected families with >300 affected individuals. All RP17 SVs had breakpoints within a genomic region spanning YPEL2 to LINC01476. To investigate the mechanism of disease, we reprogrammed fibroblasts from affected individuals and controls into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and differentiated them into photoreceptor precursor cells (PPCs) or retinal organoids (ROs). Hi-C was performed on ROs, and differential expression of regional genes and a retinal enhancer RNA at this locus was assessed by qPCR. The epigenetic landscape of the region, and Hi-C RO data, showed that YPEL2 sits within its own topologically associating domain (TAD), rich in enhancers with binding sites for retinal transcription factors. The Hi-C map of RP17 ROs revealed creation of a neo-TAD with ectopic contacts between GDPD1 and retinal enhancers, and modeling of all RP17 SVs was consistent with neo-TADs leading to ectopic retinal-specific enhancer-GDPD1 accessibility. qPCR confirmed increased expression of GDPD1 and increased expression of the retinal enhancer that enters the neo-TAD. Altered TAD structure resulting in increased retinal expression of GDPD1 is the likely convergent mechanism of disease, consistent with a dominant gain of function. Our study highlights the importance of SVs as a genomic mechanism in unsolved Mendelian diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.09.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7675008PMC
November 2020
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